Message of Dr Shin Young-soo, Regional Director for the Western Pacific at the Neglected Tropical Diseases Regional Programme Review Group Meeting

Manila
1 June 2012

DISTINGUISHED GUESTS,

COLLEAGUES,

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,

Welcome to the Regional Office and the meeting of the Neglected Tropical Diseases Regional Programme Review Group.

As some of you may know, I have made a personal commitment to work with Pacific island countries to eliminate lymphatic filariasis and yaws, and to banish leprosy as a public health issue.

My determination to accomplish these goals is as great as ever.

And I am not only talking about the Pacific. It is unacceptable that we have not banished these preventable diseases to medical history.

Let's start with some good news.

Since the first meeting of the subregional lymphatic filariasis Programme Review Groups in 2000, this Region has experienced great success towards elimination of this debilitating and disfiguring disease.

Currently, China, the Republic of Korea and Solomon Islands have been verified as having eliminated lymphatic filariasis. Nine countries are in post-intervention surveillance.

Ten countries are still implementing mass drug administration, and three are being reassessed for endemicity.

This is good news, made possible by the hard work of the endemic countries, as well as by the support of many of you in this room.

It could not have happened without generous donations of drugs by GlaxoSmithKline and the Japan International Corporation Agency.

Technical support from James Cook University, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Task Force for Global Health has also been critical.

I would like to thank them all.

The response to neglected tropical diseases is in transition in our Region. We are moving from two subregional Programme Review Groups to one Regional Programme Review Group, and from a focus on lymphatic filariasis to include other NTDs, such as soil-transmitted Helminthiasis and schistosomiasis.

While some countries have achieved great success in their deworming programmes — such as Cambodia and the Lao People's Democratic Republic — other countries still need to scale up their efforts.

I am grateful, therefore, to see here today partners who are supporting this effort — both through drug donations and technical assistance.

We are confident that this meeting will produce practical recommendations that will encourage efforts to eliminate lymphatic filariasis, and schistosomiasis, and scale up deworming coverage to at least 75% of all children.

Our target date is 2020.

The successes so far show us what can be achieved when political commitment, dedicated people and resources are combined to tackle disease.

We have the tools to get the job done. We have the know-how. We have the required drugs. And we have the partnerships.

Of course, we still need some resources — relatively small amounts of money here and there.

But what we need most of all is the commitment to see this through and finish the job we started.

I wish you all a productive meeting. I can assure you that you have my personal support in the work you are doing.

Thank you once again for your efforts, and I wish you a pleasant stay in Manila.

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