Lao PDR eliminates lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem

16 Oct 2023
Teams test for lymphatic filarasis during a survey in Lao PDR.

The Act to End NTDs | East program is proud to join the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), World Health Organization, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in celebrating Lao PDR’s achievement of eliminating lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem.

WHO made the formal announcement during the 74th session of the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific in Manila, Philippines. 

Also known as elephantiasis, lymphatic filariasis is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) that can cause swollen extremities in a person and lead to severe disfigurement and disability, as well as social and economic discrimination against those affected. As of the latest data released by WHO last week, more than 793 million people required treatment for this disease across 44 countries in Asia, Africa, the Western Pacific, and parts of the Caribbean and South America. WHO officially confirmed this week that the people of Lao PDR are no longer at risk of contracting the disease.

USAID’s Act to End NTDs | East program supported the government of Lao PDR to compile the data and information needed to establish proof that the country had eliminated lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem. Additionally, with USAID support, RTI assisted the government to develop a plan to monitor and track progress against the disease to ensure elimination is sustained in the future.

“Lao PDR is the latest example of a country that worked hard to go the last mile to reach lymphatic filariasis elimination and free its people from this disabling disease, said Lisa Rotondo, Director of USAID’s Act to End NTDs | East program. “Global momentum towards eliminating lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem, led by countries themselves, is only growing. We are proud to be among the partners that supported the Lao PDR Ministry of Health to achieve this important milestone for its people.”

The elimination of lymphatic filariasis in Lao PDR was supported by many partners including USAID, RTI, FHI360, WHO, Mac Foundation, and the Asian Development Bank. In addition, albendazole treatments were donated by GlaxoSmithKline through the WHO donation program for NTD medicines.

The Southeast Asian country now becomes the 19th country to have achieved validation of lymphatic filariasis elimination, marking another important public health milestone for the country and globally.