Freedom from Filaria- Maldives is the first country in the WHO South East Asia Region to officially eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis
19th July 2016: At a ceremony held today, WHO’s South East Asia Regional Director Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh awarded a plaque and a citation to the government of Maldives for eliminating lymphatic filariasis, a dangerous disease familiar to the country for over 50 years. The plaque was accepted on behalf of the Maldives by Honorable Minister of Health Mr Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim.
In her speech, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh noted that the achievement made by Maldives was possible due to the ‘sustained high level vision and commitment coupled with the tireless efforts of generations of health workers’. Dr Singh distinctively highlighted the partnership of WHO and Maldives as their first collaborative work was for lymphatic filariasis campaigns in 1951. She praised the government for not only the years of effort but also the strong surveillance and treatment plan the government has in place for more than 200 chronically infected people who require lifelong care. The Regional Director referred to Maldives as an “example” to the region in demonstrating that elimination of lymphatic filariasis is possible.
Minister of Health Mr Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim thanked the WHO for the countless technical support that has been provided from day one. He took a special note to thank the frontline Health workers for their unflagging determination as truly the unsung heroes of the success attained.
During the ceremony, a WHO brochure on Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination was launched by the Vice President of the Maldives, His Excellency Mr Abdulla Jihad together with Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh. The brochure titled “A Nation Unburdened” is a short summary of how Maldives achieved its freedom from Filaria, with focus to the strategies recommended under the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GPELF) that Maldives had implemented.
Lymphatic filariasis is endemic to seven of WHO South-East Asia’s 11 Member Countries. Elimination of lymphatic filariasis is the latest in a series of health sector achievements in Maldives, including the attainment of Malaria-free status in December 2015. Although the elimination target is reached, efforts still continue to sustain the achievement. WHO is privileged to have supported the Government and the people of Maldives from the very beginning to the end of a five decade long journey. We can now look forward to a future free from a devastating and stigmatizing Neglected Tropical Disease.