New Delhi: The World Health Organization (WHO) has felicitated Nepal for eliminating trachoma, a tropical disease that leads to blindness, as a public health problem and controlling rubella that causes serious and irreversible birth defects. Nepal is the first country in WHO South-East Asia Region, which also includes India, 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. Trachoma is a disease of the eye caused by infection with the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis.
“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, WHO South-East Asia.
The regional director also handed over plaques to Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Upendra Yadav for the country’s public health achievements.
Singh said Nepal’s achievements demonstrate that with right tools and strategies, every country has the power to end neglected tropical diseases like trachoma that have no reason to exist anymore.
“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,” she said.
Singh said 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, among others.
On the country’s achievement to control rubella and congenital rubella syndrome, she 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,” Singh said.
Nepal has achieved 97 per cent reduction of rubella cases as against a target of 95 per cent, in comparison to 2008. This has been achieved two years ahead of the regional target of 2020 and one years ahead of the national target of 2019.