Chagas disease, human rabies transmitted by dogs, leprosy, and river blindness are some of the diseases targeted for elimination

Washington, D.C., 29 September 2016 (PAHO/WHO) - Health leaders of the member countries of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) agreed today on a new plan of action to eliminate eight neglected infectious diseases and to significantly reduce the burden of five others over the next six years. The plan also calls for actions to reduce the risk of reintroduction of these diseases in the post-elimination phase.

Marcos Espinal, Director of PAHO's Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis Department, said the plan adopted by PAHO's 55th Directing Council of PAHO "is an example of the renewed regional commitment to the well-being of the most vulnerable population, especially those living in vulnerable conditions in rural and marginalized areas. We have made headway in recent years, but we need to pick up the pace to put an end to these diseases that keep thousands of people in poverty."

The diseases targeted for interruption of transmission or elimination by 2022 are: trachoma, Chagas disease, human rabies transmitted by dogs, leprosy, human taeniasis and cysticercosis tapeworm infections, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis (river blindness), and schistosomiasis. The following are targeted for prevention, control, and a reduction in the burden of disease: cystic echinococcosis (hydatidosis), fascioliasis, human plague, leishmaniasis (cutaneous and visceral), and soil-transmitted helminth infections (intestinal worms).

Neglected infectious diseases affect primarily populations living in extreme poverty and cause suffering, permanent disability, and death. In Latin America and the Caribbean, an estimated 46 million children live in areas at high risk of infection or reinfection with soil-transmitted helminths, while nearly 11 million people are at risk of blinding trachoma, and 70.2 million are at risk of Chagas disease.

"The complex geographical distribution, forms of transmission, and social determinants of these diseases make their elimination more difficult," said Luis Gerardo Castellanos, head of PAHO's Neglected, Tropical, and Vector Borne Diseases unit. "To eliminate them, we need integrated programs to prevent and detect more than one of these infections, since the diseases often affect the same population groups."

The new plan, which builds on previous efforts and successes (see Regional Progress 2009-2015 below), identifies the need to scale up early detection and diagnosis of cases, decentralize clinical management and guarantee skilled and sufficient human resources to ensure timely and affordable access to medicines and care for anyone who needs them. The plan also recommends simultaneously tackling several diseases affecting the same population groups, and reducing transmission risk by increasing access to safe water, basic sanitation, hygiene, and improved housing conditions.

Regional Progress 2009-2015

  • Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Guatemala wee the first countries in the world to receive WHO certification of elimination of human onchocerciasis.
  • The number of people needing treatment for onchocerciasis in the region declined from more than 336,000 in 2009 to just over 25,000 in 2015.
  • Seventeen Central and South American countries have eliminated vector-borne transmission of Chagas disease in all or part of their national territory.
  • Almost all the countries in the Americas have eliminated leprosy as a national public health problem.
  • Fourteen countries are considered free of local malaria transmission.
  • Three countries have eliminated lymphatic filariasis and have not reported any local transmission, while three more are close to elimination.
  • In 2013, nearly 20 million children were treated for soil-transmitted helminth infections in the Region.
  • Six countries and territories in the Caribbean may have eliminated the transmission of schistosomiasis, but there are still some areas with transmission in limited foci.
  • Cases of human rabies transmitted by dogs continue to be limited to a small number of geographical areas.
  • In 2015, 19 countries reported having eliminated congenital syphilis, and Cuba became the first country in the world where elimination was validated by WHO.
  • The number of reported cases of neonatal tetanus declined from 22 in 2011 to 10 in 2014; only in Haiti does it continue to be a public health challenge.


- Plan of Action for the Elimination of Neglected Infectious Diseases and Post-elimination Actions 2016-2022
55th PAHO Directing Council
Documents of the 55th PAHO Directing Council