World Health Organization Raises Awareness on ‘Vector-borne Diseases’

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The World Health Organization (WHO) Monday, April 07, used the World Health Day, to raise the awareness on vector-borne diseases such as malaria, which is prevalent in Liberia and West Africa Region.

Dr. Luis Gomes Sambo, WHO Africa Regional Director, in his World Health Day Message, said the aim of this year’s commemoration is to raise awareness about the threat posed by a group of diseases that are spread by insects and other vectors.

“Mosquitoes, flies, ticks, and freshwater snails are some of the vectors that spread diseases such as malaria, human African trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness, river blindness, bilharzia, elephantiasis, leishmaniasis, yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya,” Dr. Sambo said.

The Day, which never had a formal program in Liberia, was celebrated under the theme: “Vector-borne diseases: small bite, big threat”.

The Africa WHO Regional Director’s Message was read by WHO County Representative to Liberia, Dr. Nestor Ndayimirije.

Dr. Ndayimirije read the message at the launch of the Ebola Half Hour of the Government of Liberia, which is battling the spread the deadly Ebola virus that has so far taken the lives of at least 10 persons. Eight of the 10 died in Foya, Lofa County, epicenter of the outbreak on Liberian soil since March 31, when it was confirmed that indeed Ebola had crossed over from neighboring Guinea.

The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare uses the Ebola Half Hour, which is broadcast live on at least three radio stations, to provide updates on the outcome of daily technical meetings between the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and its partners including the WHO.

Still reading Dr. Sambo’s Message, Dr. Ndayimirije said factors that contribute to the burden of vector-borne diseases include environmental and climate changes. Precarious living conditions increase the risk of vector-borne diseases. Furthermore, vector resistance to insecticides constitutes a serious threat to vector control.

“Today, it is encouraging to note the progress made in the African Region to tackle vector-borne diseases. For example, between 2001 and 2012 an estimated 337 million cases of malaria were averted. Similarly, river blindness is no longer a public health problem in West African countries. Although the sustained scaling-up of proven cost-effective interventions has led to significant reduction of vector-borne diseases, much more needs to be done.

“We can protect ourselves and our families by taking simple preventive measures for keeping our environment clean and less conducive to vector breeding and survival. In addition using other personal protective measures such as insecticide-treated nets avoids the bite of the insects that transmit diseases.

As we commemorate World Health Day, I urge governments and people to take concrete promotive and protective actions to prevent the big threat caused by small bites,” Dr. Sambo stated in his Message.

Dr. Sambo urged governments to join the WHO as the health sector cannot, on its own, prevent vector proliferation and vector-borne diseases, other sectors such as environment, agriculture and local government are called upon to play their role in the fight against these diseases. “It is only together that we can end the needless suffering and deaths caused by vector-borne diseases.”

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