WHO commends PNG and Japan for committing to eliminate elephantiasis in PNG

Last Friday, the National Department of Health (NDoH) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), on behalf of their governments, signed Meeting Minutes for the Project for Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis in the Pacific Region. The signing ceremony which took place in Port Moresby was witnessed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The World Health Organization commended the Governments of Papua New Guinea and Japan for their joint commitment to eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis in PNG. The WHO Officer in Charge, Dr Paulinus Sikosana, called the cooperation a “significant milestone”, in strengthening PNG’s efforts to eliminate the disease in the country.

Lymphatic Filariasis (LF), commonly known as elephantiasis, is a mosquito-borne disease that damages the lymphatic system, leading to severe disfigurement, pain and disability. The disease is found in 62 out of Papua New Guinea’s 89 districts with prevalence rates ranging from 0 to 70 percent in many areas.

Dr Sikosana said that this cooperation was in line with WHO’s commitment towards the elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis, yaws and leprosy in the Pacific Region. The project is expected to commence in March 2018 for a duration of five years, with Port Moresby, New Ireland, East New Britain and West New Britain as the project sites. The project will use the cost effective and proven strategy known as Mass Drug Administration (MDA) which has the potential to eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis. The MDA was successfully piloted in New Ireland between 2014 and 2016.

WHO is currently working towards adopting a new triple drug regime which is based on collaborative research between the PNG Institute for Medical Research (PNGIMR), the National Department of Health and WHO. According to Dr Sikosana, the project’s use of the triple drug regime MDA has the potential to eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis in PNG within 2-3 years. This strategy increases the likelihood of PNG meeting the 2020 target for the elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis globally. He congratulated Papua New Guinea for contributing towards what he described as ‘ground-breaking scientific knowledge’.

Dr Sikosana affirmed that the World Health Organization will continue to partner with NDoH, the National and Provincial Governments, JICA and other partners to support Papua New Guinea’s efforts to eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis.