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Vietnam, along with Palau and Wallis and Futuna eliminated lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Region Monday.

Elephantiasis of leg due to filariasis/CDC
Elephantiasis of leg due to filariasis/CDC

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Regional Director Dr Shin Young-soo marked the accomplishment by presenting certificates to representatives from Palau, Viet Nam, and Wallis and Futuna during the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific in Manila.

“We sincerely congratulate Palau, Viet Nam, and Wallis and Futuna for eliminating lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem,” Dr Shin said. “Decades of their effort with support from partners—including the governments of France, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America—as well as donations of medicines have enabled them to achieve this milestone and ensure future generations are safe from this dreadful disease.”

“Lymphatic filariasis used to be endemic in several parts of Viet Nam, putting millions of people at risk. Thanks to decades of support from WHO and other development partners, we finally achieved our goal of ‘a Viet Nam Free of lymphatic filariasis’. We will continue to provide quality care for people affected with complications of this disease and ensure post-elimination surveillance, as guided by WHO,” said Madam Nguyen Thi Kim Tien, Minister of Health, Viet Nam.

A mosquito-borne disease, lymphatic filariasis is one of 15 neglected tropical diseases that are endemic in the WHO Western Pacific Region. Also known as elephantiasis, the disease is painful and can lead to permanent disfigurement and disability, often causing people to lose their livelihood and suffer from stigma, depression and anxiety.

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Since WHO launched the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis in 2000, a total of 11 countries and areas in the Western Pacific Region have been validated as having eliminated lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem: Cambodia, China, Cook Islands, Niue, the Marshall Islands, Palau, the Republic of Korea, Tonga, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, and Wallis and Futuna.

Lymphatic filariasis remains endemic in 13 countries and areas in the Region: American Samoa, Brunei Darussalam, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Federated States of Micronesia, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa and Tuvalu.