W.H.O. praises Samoa on drug treatment

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

213 Hits

Dr. Rasul Baghirov with students from St. Joseph’s School at Le’auva’a.

Dr. Rasul Baghirov with students from St. Joseph’s School at Le’auva’a.

The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) has praised Samoa for being the first country to implement the new triple drug regimen to treat lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as elephantiasis. 

According to a statement from the global health body, Samoa began an annual mass treatment program targeting the entire eligible population of Samoa on August 14 and is expected to complete the exercise yesterday. 

W.H.O. Representative in Samoa, Dr Rasul Baghirov commended the Ministry of Health. 

“Together with the Ministry of Health Samoa, we have ensured that dispositions are in place to enable the mass treatment of an estimated 180 000 people as part of their renewed national plan to eliminate lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem.

“With the support of partners and donated medicines from the pharmaceutical industry, the Government of Samoa has been demonstrating its strong commitment to ensure that filariasis is finally eliminated from Samoa,” he said. 

According to the W.H.O. health teams in all communities started mass treatment of children in primary schools and made house-to-house visits to provide the treatment to all eligible individuals in the community in Savai’i. Health workers and volunteers ensured that people took the medication under their direct supervision. 

Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe, acting director of Division of Communicable Disease of the World Health Organisation’s Regional Office for the Western Pacific, indicated that engaging communities and making sure everyone takes the medication is crucial to ensure success through the use of this new treatment regimen, and thereby accelerate the achievement of elimination. 

“We are encouraged to note the careful planning and preparations, including communication and training of health workers and volunteers that has preceded the implementation of this Campaign and are hopeful that the community will respond positively,” he said.  

The W.H.O. stated that it noted the M.O.H. prepared well for the M.D.A. campaign with the new strategy, through a renewed national Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination Action Plan. 

“A series of consultations were held with all relevant stakeholders, including national and local policy-makers, community leaders, religious leaders, school principals and doctors as well as all ministerial staff.

“More than 1500 community health workers and youth groups have been trained in basic epidemiology and transmission of the disease, the elimination strategy, and prevention and management of any adverse events which, although rare, are more likely to occur after infected people ingest the tablets. 

“A comprehensive social mobilization and advocacy campaign has been implemented,” stated the W.H.O. 

 

Samoa rolls out triple drug therapy to accelerate elimination of lymphatic filariasis

World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) – Samoa has become the first country to implement the new triple drug regimen recommended by W.H.O. for the treatment of lymphatic filariasis (L.F.), a disabling and disfiguring neglected tropical disease.

Annual mass treatment of the entire eligible population of Samoa began on 14 August and is expected to be completed by 26 August.

In 2017, WHO published guidelines on alternative mass drug administration (M.D.A.) regimens to eliminate filariasis, in which I.D.A. (that is, a combination of ivermectin, diethylcarbamazine and albendazole) is recommended for annual treatment in settings where its use is expected to have the greatest impact.

“Together with the Ministry of Health Samoa, we have ensured that dispositions are in place to enable the mass treatment of an estimated 180 000 people as part of their renewed national plan to eliminate lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem” said Dr Rasul Baghirov, W.H.O. Representative in Samoa. “With the support of partners and donated medicines from the pharmaceutical industry, the Government of Samoa has been demonstrating its strong commitment to ensure that filariasis is finally eliminated from Samoa”.

Health teams in all communities started mass treatment of children in primary schools and made house-to-house visits to provide the treatment to all eligible individuals in the community in Savaii, the largest island of Samoa. Health workers and volunteers ensured that people took the medication under their direct supervision.

“Engaging communities and making sure everyone takes the medication is crucial to ensure success through the use of this new treatment regimen, and thereby accelerate the achievement of elimination” said Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe, acting Director of Division of Communicable Disease of W.H.O.’s Regional Office for the Western Pacific. “We are encouraged to note the careful planning and preparations, including communication and training of health workers and volunteers that has preceded the implementation of this Campaign and are hopeful that the community will respond positively.”

The Ministry of Health of Samoa is prepared well for this M.D.A. campaign with the new strategy through a renewed national Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination Action Plan. A series of consultations were held with all relevant stakeholders, including national and local policy-makers, community leaders, religious leaders, school principals and doctors as well as all ministerial staff.

More than 1500 community health workers and youth groups have been trained in basic epidemiology and transmission of the disease, the elimination strategy, and prevention and management of any adverse events which, although rare, are more likely to occur after infected people ingest the tablets. A comprehensive social mobilization and advocacy campaign has been implemented.

Samoa joined Pacific Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (PacELF) in 1999 and conducted its first M.D.A. campaign that year, followed at regular intervals with other campaigns. However, countrywide surveys including blood tests in 2017 noted persistent transmission of L.F. In response, the Government of Samoa, supported by W.H.O., renewed its efforts to accelerate elimination of the disease using the new triple drug regimen.

Similarly, American Samoa also detected continuing transmission of LF through post-M.D.A. surveillance in 2016. Considering the significant movement of populations between these two neighbouring countries, efforts have been made over the year to coordinate M.D.A. campaigns in both countries. American Samoa plans to initiate M.D.A. in September 2018.

The Pacific Island nations that have eliminated lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem include Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Niue, Tonga and Vanuatu.

L.F., commonly known as elephantiasis, is a parasitic disease of humans transmitted by mosquitoes. Infection is usually acquired in childhood and causes hidden damage to the lymphatic system. The painful and profoundly disfiguring visible manifestations of the disease, notably lymphoedema, elephantiasis and scrotal swelling, occur later in life and lead to permanent disability.

In 1997, the Fifth-World Health Assembly resolved to eliminate LF as a public health problem (Resolution WHA50.29). In 2000, W.H.O. launched the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (G.P.E.L.F.), which has the goal of eliminating LF as a public health problem by 2020. The aims of G.P.E.L.F. are to (i) stop the spread of infection through large-scale annual treatment of all eligible populations in affected areas with M.D.A. and (ii) alleviate the suffering caused by LF through morbidity management and disability prevention (M.M.D.P.) activities.

 

© Samoa Observer 2016

Developed by Samoa Observer in Apia