Speech of Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, at the Neglected Tropical Diseases Programme Management Meeting

18 July 2016 – Manila, Philippines

Distinguished representatives of ministries of health and neglected tropical disease programmes;

Chairman, Professor Zhou Xiao-Nong, and members of the Western Pacific Regional Programme Review Group on Neglected Diseases;

Partners from development agencies, civil society and the private sector;

Esteemed colleagues;

Welcome to Manila and to the Programme Managers Meeting on Neglected Tropical Diseases in the Western Pacific Region.

Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, regrets not being able to join us due to previous commitments. He has asked me to send his regards and deliver these words.

Our ambitious regional action plan to reduce the suffering caused by neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, started in 2012.

Since then, our Region has made significant progress. This year, after more than a decade of efforts, four countries – Cambodia, Cook Islands, Niue and Vanuatu – were validated as having eliminated lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem. These are the first countries to do so since China and the Republic of Korea were acknowledged in 2007 and 2008. This achievement means that future generations in those countries will be protected from this disfiguring and debilitating disease of poverty. This success is due to your strong leadership and commitment and diligent efforts of your health workforce at all levels. I would like to sincerely congratulate these countries on this huge achievement and also acknowledge the long-standing strong support of Regional Programme Review Group members and partners in this effort.

This year another three countries are submitting dossiers for validation of such status. And many more countries are firmly on the path to reach the global goal of elimination of lymphatic filariasis by 2020.

In addition, three countries – Cambodia, China and Lao People's Democratic Republic – have reported achieving the status of elimination of trachoma as a public health problem and are preparing to submit dossiers to WHO for validation.

Two countries – Cambodia and Lao People's Democratic Republic – reported achieving prevalence of schistosomiasis below 1% in all sentinel sites last year. The current status towards elimination of schistosomiasis as a public health problem has been evaluated and will be discussed later today.

Still, a lot of work remains.

We have 14 NTDs endemic in the Region. Some are targeted for elimination, while the others are targeted for control of morbidity by 2020. We have only a few years remaining. While many countries are on track for elimination of lymphatic filariasis and trachoma, progress for many other NTDs is slow.

As countries reach elimination goals, it becomes necessary to strengthen integrated surveillance capacities in general health services to ensure early case detection and response to prevent re-establishment of transmission. We also need to strengthen health-care service provision for people affected by the debilitating effects of past infections, such as morbidity management and stigma minimization. And all such service delivery needs to be sustained with potentially reduced financial resources after achievement of the elimination goals.

Sustainable Development Goals pledge that no one will be left behind. Accelerating elimination of some of the NTDs through vertical interventions and ensuring sustainability of other interventions in more horizontal manner at the same time, both in the context of universal health coverage is a very complex task. However, this needs to be done now. Otherwise, people affected by these diseases of poverty may be again neglected and left behind.

I trust this two-day meeting will be an opportunity for sharing experiences, discussing solutions to challenges and sharing perspectives among countries. I urge you to consider how best to achieve national elimination targets and, at the same time, consider ways to ensure cost-effective sustainability of NTD interventions and health services, including in post-elimination situations.

I wish you a very productive meeting and a pleasant stay in Manila.

Thank you.