Eliminating leprosy in the Western Pacific
The goal of eliminating leprosy as a public health problem was set in 1991 by the World Health Assembly (WHA). Attaining a level of prevalence of less than one case per 10 000 population was reached at the regional level in 1991. Therefore, the challenge in the Western Pacific Region over the years has been how to sustain the gains of elimination and to ensure that leprosy services will be available and accessible for all people affected by leprosy at their nearest health facility. This is of utmost importance to attain leprosy elimination in those previously hyperendemic countries and for the remaining three countries—the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Kiribati—that have not yet reached the elimination threshold.
The WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific will pursue the implementation of the main principles of leprosy control in the Region, with a special focus in the three remaining Pacific island countries and areas. These are based on a timely detection of new cases, contact investigation and multiple drug therapy (MDT) treatment while ensuring good treatment compliance, prevention of disabilities and rehabilitation. Emphasis will remain on sustaining the provisions for equitably-distributed quality patient care which is affordable and easily accessible.
Currently, there are no new technological breakthroughs or developments that warrant any drastic changes to the current strategy for leprosy control. However, there is an urgent need to secure support and political commitment from Member States to hasten elimination efforts and activities in the three countries (the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Kiribati) that still have to attain the elimination goal. This also applies to previously endemic countries and areas where new cases are reported continually. The implementation of the New Global Operational Guidelines need to be strengthened, leprosy activities sustained and the leprosy burden further reduced by focusing on integration, early case detection and MDT treatment.