Tonga has been certified lymphatic filariasis-free by the World Health Organization (WHO) after going about a decade without any cases of the infection.

The eradication of lymphatic filariasis or kulokula fua has been applauded by the Minister of Health Hon. Saia Piukala saying it was a “very good news for Tonga”.

In 2000 the Ministry conducted a mass treatment of the population against the disease followed by an assessment in which the result showed it was successfully prevented, the Minster said.

Hon. Piukala said the kingdom will be awarded a certificate by WHO during the Pacific Islands Ministers of Health meeting which will be held in Cook Islands at the end of this month.

“The World Health Organization sincerely congratulates the Kingdom of Tonga for eliminating this disease as a public health problem”, a WHO press release this evening has quoted  Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific as saying.

“From today, the children of Tonga can grow up knowing that they are safe from this very nasty disease – what a wonderful achievement for the health of your people.

“This achievement in Tonga comes after decades of dedicated efforts to stop transmission of this disease, known in the local language as ‘kulokula fua’.

“Tonga joins seven other countries in WHO’s Western Pacific Region that have been validated as having achieved elimination of lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem since WHO launched the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis in 2000: Cambodia, China, Cook Islands, Niue, the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Korea and Vanuatu”.

Lymphatic filariasis is a mosquito-borne disease that damages the lymphatic system, leading to severe disfigurement, pain and disability.

“For people affected by this disease, the impacts of disfigurement and the associated stigma are profound: people often lose their livelihoods, and suffer from psychological impacts such as depression and anxiety.

“The disease has a long history in Tonga: the common occurrence of swelling of the leg, arm and scrotum among people in Tonga was observed in the 1770s by Captain Cook. In the 1950s, the prevalence rate of this disfiguring and debilitating disease was close to 50%.

“Mass drug administration in the 1970s and 1980s reduced the prevalence significantly, but a series of further efforts were required over the last few decades to reach the elimination goal”.

“Lymphatic filariasis’ long history in Tonga makes today’s victory over the disease all the sweeter. This could not have been achieved without the unwavering support and leadership of the Ministry of Health, as well as strong financial and other support from donors and partners – and most importantly, the commitment of the communities of Tonga affected by the disease,” Dr Shin said.


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