Posts Tagged PAHO

PAHO Interviews NTD Special Envoy Álvaro Arzú During 52nd Directing Council

October 11th, 2013

aruzu_interview

Last week, during the Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) 52nd Directing Council, NTD Special Envoy Álvaro Arzú, mayor of Guatemala City and former President of Guatemala, was asked to comment on the challenges of controlling and eliminating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in the region of the Americas. The interview (in Spanish) can be found below and you can read on to see what was discussed. To read more about the NTDs discussions held during the 52nd Directing Council, read our recap here.

PAHO: What are the challenges for mobilizing the agenda of neglected diseases in the region of the Americas?

NTD Special Envoy Álvaro Arzú: I think the biggest challenge is giving the issue the real importance it deserves. Indeed, when I was President, I was not informed of the relevance that neglected diseases have, that these diseases exist, and that they can be treated at a very low cost. But by not treating these diseases – their impact on the economy of a country is vast. If I had been told that story, I would have taken action.. So I think that the first and major challenge is to communicate to the heads of government and the people in decision-making positions, about the importance of coordinating a joint effort to distribute these drugs, which are very cheap  and most are actually donated by pharmaceutical companies. And what is needed are the logistics to reach the communities that are in need of this medicine, which treats NTDs that are often overlooked because they are most prevalent in areas of extreme poverty. But today we know that a pill that costs 50 cents can treat and protect a person for one year. Now you can have a more or less definite solution.

PAHO: What is PAHO’s role in the fight against these diseases?

NTD Special Envoy Álvaro Arzú: Well, [it is] very important, because its role is precisely to coordinate all government agencies in the countries where we are still vulnerable to these diseases – to coordinate everyone in this effort. And you may be wondering what a mayor has to do with this matter? Well, I act as a spokesperson, really, of the organization – a Special Envoy, that is the term they have used – to give prominence or relevance to the topic. I think this is the main and first challenge we need to face, because people do not recognize the significance that this problem has within our countries.

NTD Progress Highlighted at PAHO’s 52nd Directing Council

October 4th, 2013

Former President of Guatemala Álvaro Arzú presents during PAHO's Directing Council. [Photo by Mawish Raza]

Former President of Guatemala Álvaro Arzú presents during a PAHO Directing Council side event. [Photo by Mawish Raza]

By Raquel Corona-Parra

The Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region has been leading the way in Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) treatment and elimination efforts. With a list of successes under its belt most recently the elimination of onchocerciasis from Colombia and the adoption of the Organization of American State’s resolution on NTDs – the LAC region is edging even closer to seeing the end of NTDs while setting an example for the rest of the world.

With this in mind, health officials from the LAC region met this week at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) headquarters in Washington, DC for its review of onchocerciasis elimination was approved and accepted. PAHO has repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to ending NTDs, and included these diseases in their Strategic Plan for 2014-2019.

The Global Network was delighted to add to this important work by co-hosting a side event specifically on NTDs on October 2nd. Health officials, and one of our very own NTD Special Envoys, mayor of Guatemala City and former President of Guatemala Álvaro Arzú , highlighted the progress to date as well as the challenges that remain in controlling and eliminating NTDs, particularly the need for increased political and financial support in order to truly make NTDs a public health problem of the past.

Álvaro Arzú explained that political will and commitment from governmental leaders are essential in the fight against NTDs. He expressed that during his presidency, he was not aware that NTDs still afflicted the people of Guatemala, that the burden caused by these diseases is completely preventable, and perhaps most importantly, that highly-cost effective solutions already exist to control and eliminate NTDs. Former President Arzú noted his most important role as NTD Special Envoy is to provide the political voice required for the NTD efforts to be successful.

PAHO Assistant Director, Francisco Becerra Posada, gave the opening address and Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, Secretary of Health Surveillance and Vice-Minister of Health of Brazil, moderated the event. Dr. Marcos Espinal, Director of Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis Department at PAHO, shared updates on recent regional and global achievements.

Dr. Espinal stressed that although these achievements are historical accomplishments, challenges do remain. For example, there is a need to address the two remaining foci of onchocerciasis in the Americas found in the border region of Venezuela and Brazil where this disease continues to plague the Yanomami indigenous population. In addition, fifty million children continue to be at risk for infection from intestinal parasites (soil-transmitted helminths, or STHs), which rob them from the chance of attending school and living healthy lives. Endemic countries need continued support to control and eliminate other NTDs like lymphatic filariasis (LF), trachoma, leprosy, rabies, and schistosomiasis; while Chagas disease, leishmaniansis, malaria and dengue continue to present serious challenges to health officials.

Ambassador Leonidas Rosa Bautista, permanent representative for Honduras at the OAS, stressed that for those who suffer from these diseases, NTDs are both a cause and a consequence of poverty. He also shared details on the national plan to address NTDs in Honduras. Honduras was the first country in the region of the Americas to launch its national plan, which addresses the burden of disease caused by 9 NTDs.

Ferdinando Regalia, Chief of Social Protection and Health Division at the Inter-American Development Bank, shared an overview on the widely successful LAC NTD Initiative demonstration project in Guyana, which we are implementing in collaboration with PAHO. An NTD component addressing LF and STHs was added to the Georgetown Sanitation Improvement Program, demonstrating how NTDs are best addressed through a cross-sectoral, inter-programmatic approach involving water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

During the side event, Global Network Managing Director Neeraj Mistry acknowledged the leadership provided by PAHO and IDB in promoting and implementing programs that are helping millions of people throughout the region who suffer from NTDs. He stressed that the lessons learned in the region of the Americas should be shared with other regions of the world also afflicted by NTDs, so that together we can rid millions of people from these diseases.

We are beginning to see increased political will and commitment, and this makes us truly believe that we are closer to seeing the end of NTDs in the Americas!

Trinidad and Tobago. A Success Story in the Fight Against NTDs.

June 8th, 2012

This Caribbean country has succeeded in controlling or eliminated most NTDs. Dr. Dave Chadee, Professor of Environmental Health at the Neglected Tropical Diseases Initiative for LAC is implementing several projects.

Dr. Chadee, what is the situation regarding NTDs in Trinidad and Tobago?

The situation regarding NTDs in my country is quite different from that of our neighbor’s. The country has eliminated lymphatic filariasis (LF) as well as malaria, and leprosy has been reduced to less than 1 case in every 100,000 inhabitants so it is no longer considered a major public health problem. We have also reduced the incidence of hookworms and recent surveys have not found cases of this infection. Today, the NTDs that are still considered a real challenge are yellow fever, which still persists in some pockets in forested areas (a zoonosis), and dengue, the most extensive  and problematic vector-borne disease in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean region.

Dr. Dave Chadee

In your opinion, what are the main factors that have helped control and eliminate these diseases in the country?

Well, first of all the fact that Trinidad and Tobago has an universal, free to all health care system that has helped in controlling or eliminating most of the local and imported diseases. This is an advantage compared to other countries in the Caribbean region, because offering free treatments to all for any NTD makes it easier for people to seek help when they need it, no matter their ability to pay for these services and whether they are nationals or non nationals.

I also think that having staff that have received specific training on NTDs is key, and not only do they need to acquire the knowledge: they need to keep informed of new developments in their field by receiving updates or refresher training.

Another success story for the country involves the strategy against NTDs – which involves continuing monitoring and evaluation activities. We know of programs that have implemented wonderful strategies but did not incorporate internal audits to check their effectiveness, strengths and weaknesses over time, significantly reducing the efficacy of the programs.

Last but not least, I believe that the political support of local authorities is key, both for the implementation of effective programs and to keep morale high among health workers. NTD work can be tedious because it is a battle that is never complete, so keeping the morale of the teams high, making workers feel appreciated, is very important.

What is the importance of vector management in the fight against NTDs?

Our experience has demonstrated that integrated vector management can help combat these diseases more effectively. At my university we have developed vector control strategies that are effective against Culex quinquefasciatus and other container breeding mosquitoes. Also, our research demonstrates that integrated vector management can be useful if used together with mass drug administration programs, and can help raise awareness about LF and other NTDs among communities.

Based on your latest research about transmission of LF, what are the changes you have observed in the habits of the Culex mosquito in the last years?

Based on my research, there is evidence that the blood feeding times of the Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito, the main vector for the transmission of LF, have shifted significantly. Previous studies showed the peak biting times in Trinidad and Tobago was between 10 pm and 3 am. Now we are finding a bimodal pattern with an early peak between 7 and 9 pm, as well as the 10-3am peak. This shift may be due to any of several factors like the use of air conditioning and fans in the household and the change of light regimens in cities such as the use of indoor lights and security lights from dusk to dawn. This means that the Culex mosquitoes  have access to people  between 7 and 11 pm, when they  are relaxing  at home and are likely to be casually dressed and  exposing larger skin surface area to foraging mosquitoes. In addition, our preliminary study shows more biting in areas around the legs and arms, thereby increasing the possibility of LF transmission at an earlier time during the night than previously thought. We think it is important to take these factors into account when designing programs to fight LF and other vector-born NTDs.

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PROFILE

Dr. Dave D. Chadee is a Professor of Environmental Health in the Department of Life Sciences, UWI. His breakthrough research includes the development of the Xenomonitoring/PCR approach to Lymphatic filariasis, a new assay method for detecting mosquito preferences, the pupal index for dengue epidemiology and control, detected and eradicated two malaria outbreaks in Trinidad and the paper published in Science entitled, Genetics: a breakthrough for global public health.

Prof. Chadee has published over 200 papers and book chapters and has numerous collaborations in the USA and the UK. Prof. Chadee is a graduate of Naparima College, Trinidad, Dalhousie University (BSc Hons.), The University of the West Indies (MPhil) and the University of Dundee (PhD, M.PH, DSc).

Agustin Caceres is a Communications and Outreach Officer in the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Washington DC.

USAID Grants PAHO $5 Million to Improve Health in Latin America and the Caribbean

November 22nd, 2011

PAHO website to read the full press release.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) signed an agreement today with the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) that provides $5 million to improve health in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a focus on maternal and neonatal health and tuberculosis (TB).