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Officials Discuss Leadership, Donor Commitments, Eliminating Leprosy At Start Of WHO Western Pacific Region Committee Session

The WHO “must demonstrate strong leadership backed by impeccable technical competency, [Malaysian] Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said” at the opening ceremony of the 61st Session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific Monday, Bernama reports. “I believe this important conference can provide the input for future global action against pandemics and other trans-boundary diseases affecting all countries and communities, especially developing countries,” he said.

The prime minister also said the Asia Pacific region has been increasingly affected by mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever and that “[t]here is a need for stronger partnerships and international action in Asia and the Pacific region, emphasising that it is essential for the donor and international community to maintain their commitments for aid and assistance during the crisis period,” the news service writes. He also spoke about the challenge of non-communicable diseases in the region and a partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP) to establish the Malaysia-based United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot, the first in Asia (10/11).

Also at the opening session of the conference, the WHO said it “hopes to eliminate leprosy from countries in the Western Pacific region” by 2014, Bernama reports in a separate article. Shin Young-Soo, the WHO regional director, said he wanted to bring attention to “some ‘old-fashioned’ diseases. … We have unfinished business with leprosy, with lymphatic filariasis and with yaws.” The news service notes, “[a]ccording to the WHO website, leprosy was eliminated from 119 out of 122 countries where the disease was considered a public health problem in 1985” (10/11). Shin “called for collaborative action from countries and regions in the Western Pacific in order to achieve the ultimate goal of having all the people of the Western Pacific to enjoy better health,” Xinhua writes (10/11).

Meanwhile, Novartis renewed an agreement to donate “about $26 million worth [of] free multidrug therapy” to treat leprosy, according to RTTNews/StockMarketsReview.com. “The donation to WHO is expected to treat an estimated 1.1 million leprosy patients over the next five years, through 2015.” Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez said, “[W]e intend to contribute to this program until the final elimination of this debilitating disease” (10/12).

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