MANILA, 31 JULY 2017 - The Kingdom of Tonga in the Pacific Ocean may be small in population, but it is kicking big goals in public health. The World Health Organization (WHO) has validated that the country has eliminated lymphatic filariasis — also known as elephantiasis — as a public health problem.
Lymphatic filariasis is a mosquito-borne disease that damages the lymphatic system, leading to severe disfigurement, pain and disability. For people affected by this disease, the impacts of disfigurement and the associated stigma are profound: people often lose their livelihoods, and suffer from psychological impacts such as depression and anxiety.
Over 95% of HIV cases in the Pacific are reported from just one country – Papua New Guinea. With a population of 7.6 million people, it has the most serious HIV burden of the 22 Pacific island countries and areas in the World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Region. However, Papua New Guinea is making significant strides in the formidable battle against HIV.
On 1 July 2017, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus begins his 5-year term as WHO’s new Director-General. Dr Tedros previously served as Minister of Health and Minister of Foreign Affairs in Ethiopia and as Board Chair of the Global Fund and Roll Back Malaria Partnership. Dr Tedros plans to focus on five main areas of work during his tenure. They are: achieving universal health coverage; strengthening the capacity of national authorities and local communities to detect, prevent and manage health emergencies; improving the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents; addressing the health impacts of climate and environmental change; and building a transformed, transparent and accountable WHO.