Statement by the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases on Colombia’s Elimination of Onchocerciasis

The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases congratulates Colombia on becoming the first country in the world to receive verification from the World Health Organization (WHO) that it has eliminated onchocerciasis (river blindness). This milestone, announced by the Colombian government on July 29, 2013, serves as a model of success for other Latin American and African nations working to eliminate onchocerciasis, a parasitic disease that can cause severe visual impairment and permanent blindness.

We also applaud Colombia’s Ministry of Health and Social Protection, Colombia’s National Institute of Health, and global partners including the Carter Center and its Onchocerciasis Elimination Program of the Americas (OEPA), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/WHO and Merck & Co., among others, for developing an innovative public-private partnership model that has succeeded in making onchocerciasis a disease of the past in Colombia. Through the efforts to reach this historic point, local communities also have strengthened efforts to improve access to safe water, basic sanitation, nutrition and health care.

Energized by this achievement, the Colombian Ministry of Health has announced that it will carry out a  five-year master plan for the prevention and control of other neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), including soil transmitted helminth infections and trachoma.

Colombia has proven that elimination of NTDs is possible, and that this can be done in the context of working to achieve other important development goals. Colombia’s success should serve as a source of inspiration for other nations striving to control or eliminate diseases of poverty plaguing their most vulnerable populations