Opening remarks by Dr Shin Young-soo, Regional Director for the Western Pacific, to the opening session of the WPR Programme Managers Meeting on NTDs

Manila, Philippines
16 July 2013

Distinguished participants,

Members of the Western Pacific Regional Programme Review Group on Lymphatic Filariasis and Other Neglected Tropical Diseases,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Good morning.

I would like to welcome you to Manila and to this important meeting for programme managers. Your position is especially important because you are on the front line in the battle against neglected tropical diseases.

Our colleagues in the regional programme review group will be meeting here later this week. In the meantime, they will take part in these discussions and share their expertise.

Together, these two meetings will provide an update on the progress of national initiatives to eliminate lymphatic filariasis and other NTD programmes, as well as an opportunity to review and revise country-specific action plans.

As you know, neglected tropical diseases are diseases of poverty. They are a public health problem in 28 of the 37 countries and areas in the Western Pacific Region.

The most widely distributed diseases in this region are lymphatic filariasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis. Other NTDs, such as trachoma, schistosomiasis, yaws and leprosy, are present in a number of countries.

Some countries — such as China, the Republic of Korea and Solomon Islands — have already eliminated lymphatic filariasis. This is a wonderful achievement!

Meanwhile, other countries — namely Niue, Palau and Vanuatu — are progressing towards verification of elimination.

By 2020, I fully expect that 24 out of the 25 countries endemic for lymphatic filariasis in this Region will have eliminated the disease.

Other NTDs — such as trachoma, schistosomiasis, yaws and leprosy — are also present in a number of countries.

But we are making steady progress.

Now 12 countries are conducting deworming programmes. Four of them — Cambodia, Fiji, Kiribati and Tuvalu — have achieved the global coverage target of 75% of schoolchildren. We congratulate their progress and thank their ministries of education for their critical role in this multisectoral effort.

All four countries endemic for schistosomiasis — Cambodia, China, the Lao People's Democratic Republic and the Philippines — are now on target to eliminate the disease as a public health problem.

A month ago, Vanuatu became the first country in the Region to launch a yaws eradication campaign with mass community treatment. Now the other two endemic countries — Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands — are planning something similar.

I applaud the life-saving roles of our partners in these successes. Member States have also answered the call of duty with firm commitments and action.

Now more than ever we need to stay the course and work together to finish what we’ve started.

From the time I started as your Regional Director, I have given special attention to NTDs.

The World Health Assembly recently adopted an important resolution on NTDs. The resolution provides a global road map for the year 2020 — bringing 17 NTDs into one platform to foster concerted efforts to achieve elimination or intensified control.

Honouring the resolution will be a challenge. But we can achieve the NTD targets if we roll up our sleeves and work harder than ever.

We will have to assist on many fronts — by scaling up preventive chemotherapy activities, making certain that drugs are available and ensuring availability of more funding.

With your help and that of our partners, we have the power to make neglected tropical diseases things of the past. Things that you read about in history books. Things that no longer cause suffering to the people in the Region.

I wish you productive discussions and a pleasant stay in Manila.

Thank you.