— even as the possibility of elimination nears
Guyana is set to host the 10th Regional Lymphatic Filariasis Programme Managers Meeting and the 9th Regional Programme Review Group Meeting from today through Wednesday. The two meetings will be held at the Princess Hotel, Providence, East Bank Demerara, and are being held here through the Ministry of Health’s collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) and other partners supporting the elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis.
According to Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, the meetings are being viewed as very important for both the Regions of the Americas and Guyana for a number of important reasons. Principal among the importance of the meeting is the fact that as a Region “we will be able to assess the level of elimination of this preventable infection and identify gaps, challenges and solutions necessary to achieve the Global Goal of Elimination by 2015.” At present, he said, there are only four countries with active transmission of W. bancrofti, the parasite that is spread by the common culex mosquito that causes Filariasis. These four endemic countries, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Guyana will also be joined by Suriname, Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago, which are at this time rapidly moving towards elimination, Minister Ramsammy noted. He pointed out though that even in the endemic countries, through support from the PAHO/WHO, the United States Centres for Disease Control, several regional and local universities and other institutions, private drug manufactures and other donors, the ministries of health and the local health authorities have been able to reduce the prevalence markedly in Brazil, the Dominican Republic and to some extent in Guyana and Haiti.
In Brazil for example, only a few small foci of transmission still exist in one Amazon state, while the Dominican Republic has been able to push back the disease transmission to just a few providences close to the Haitian borders, Minister Ramsammy revealed. Moreover, Guyana through the novel DEC-salt fortification was able to reduce national prevalence from a record high of almost 10 percent of the population to about four percent.
“For Guyana, this meeting will mark 10 years since the programme to eliminate filariasis was formally established, and since then we have launched the DEC-fortified salt initiative which ran from 2003 to 2007, and the CARE programmes both of which have contributed to reduction in transmission and suffering from this disease,” Minister Ramsammy disclosed. In 2008, Guyana commenced the phase II programme which is now based on door to door delivery of DEC and Albendazole to all at-risk populations in the affected areas, Minister Ramsammy added. Since then, three rounds of DEC/ALB mass drug distribution were completed in Region Five, and one each in Region Six and Two.
Last year, through the Georgetown Sanitation Improvement Programme, the Ministry of Health obtained funding for a five year programme in Region Four, the most highly affected region of the country. Government, according to Minister Ramsammy has since committed to the continued provision of support for the few other regions still noted with transmission.
“It may appear to many who only see this disease in others around that the impact of this PAHO/WHO regional Programme is limited, but to our brothers and sisters who for so many years suffered from this disease, this programme has been a life saver and the impact is immeasurable,” Minister Ramsammy asserted. He added too that through the initiatives of the programme, many can now live a happy and fulfilling life, free from illness and the stigma of filaria. “For these persons, I would like to thank all those who have even in the most difficult time of finding resources and competing with what may have appeared to be more urgent problems such as HIV and malaria, for staying with this noble endeavour.”
According to Minister Ramsammy, in 2001 when the Regional Programme for the elimination of the parasitic disease was launched, Guyana was the host of the Regional Programme Managers Meeting and since then the Regional Programme has moved rapidly through several stages of advancement that today the goal of elimination seems highly possible even before the WHO target of 2020.
“As I welcome all the delegates from the affected counties and partner organisation to Guyana, I applaud the work of each of the countries’ programmes and their supporting agencies, all the international organisation, GSK and other donors to the programme and all the health workers who tirelessly continue the fight against filaria.”
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