WHO felicitates Nepal for trachoma elimination, rubella control
The World Health Organization on 22 November 2018, felicitated Nepal for eliminating trachoma, a neglected tropical disease that leads to blindness, as a public health problem, and for controlling rubella that causes serious and irreversible birth defects.
“Nepal’s remarkable achievements will positively impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of people country-wide and provide an inspiring example to countries striving to eliminate trachoma and other neglected tropical diseases”, said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director World Health Organization South-East Asia, at the event.
The Regional Director handed over plaques to the Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Mr Upendra Yadav for the country’s public health achievements.
Nepal is the first country in WHO South-East Asia to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem, and among the first countries in the Region to be verified for having controlled rubella. The validation for trachoma elimination and verification of rubella control were completed in May and August respectively.
Nepal’s achievements demonstrate that with right tools and strategies every country has the power to finish off neglected tropical diseases like trachoma that have no reason to exist anymore, said Dr Khetrapal Singh.
The country’s success underscores the wisdom of WHO’s SAFE (Surgery for trichiasis, Antibiotics to clear infection, Facial cleanliness, and Environmental improvement to limit transmission) strategy for trachoma elimination, Dr Khetrapal Singh said. She added that Nepal has steadily, methodically and rigorously implemented these strategies by making focused efforts to reach the most marginalised and hard-to-reach population, with preventive mass drug administration, surgical outreach for advanced cases, initiatives to mitigate environmental risks and continuous efforts to gauge programme efficacy and target resources.
The Regional Director lauded the relentless efforts made by health workers, the NGO Nepal Netra Jyoti Sangh, all national and international partners, and the people of Nepal, for these public health successes.
On the country’s achievement to control rubella and congenital rubella syndrome, the Regional Director said, “strong immunization delivery systems guided by sensitive and actionable surveillance data are the main strategies to control any vaccine preventable disease including rubella. By demonstrating these successfully, Nepal has shown the way for other countries to follow.”
Nepal has achieved 97% reduction of rubella cases as against a target of 95%, in comparison to 2008, two years ahead of the regional target of 2020 and one year ahead of the national target of 2019.
Elimination of neglected tropical diseases, and measles elimination and rubella control, are two of the eight regional flagship priority programmes of Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, and substantial progress is being made against these diseases in the Region.
Dr Khetrapal Singh, who has been re-nominated unopposed for another term as Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia by all Member countries of the Region, is on a three-day visit to Nepal.