World Health Assembly (WHA) resolution to eliminate leprosy
The World Health Assembly Resolution 1991
The Forty-fourth World Health Assembly, which met in in Geneva in May 1991, adopted a resolution to eliminate leprosy as a public health problem by the year 2000, defining elimination as attaining a level of prevalence below one case per 10 000 population, at the global level.
This resolution reflected WHO's ongoing commitment to achieving the global elimination of the disease, and recognised the significant progress made with multidrug therapy (MDT) and the consequent reduction in disease prevalence. It also recognised and welcomed the substantial support from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the increased priority accorded to leprosy control by many of its Member States.
The resolution urged Member States to strengthen their political commitment to leprosy elimination so as to reach the elimination goal as soon as possible. It requested WHO to increase it technical support to Member States, and to continue to mobilize and coordinate resources from NGOs and others in order to achieve that goal.
By establishing a target for the year 2000, the WHA drew attention to the effectiveness of the available treatment technology, the need for leprosy-endemic countries and donor agencies to no longer regard leprosy as a permanent and intractable problem, and to redouble their efforts towards controlling leprosy, and its acceptance as simply another health problem with a clear solution.
Armed with a clear mandate from its Member States, WHO approached the international donor community to fund an elimination strategy. By 1995 it had established a global supply of MDT drugs, a key element of the strategy, which it then made available free of charge to all patients around the world.
The elimination of leprosy at the global level was achieved by the end of 2000, after which WHO then established its own more radical targets of reaching elimination at national and then sub-national levels. The setting of such targets helped generate and maintain high levels of political commitment in endemic countries, as well as encouraging donor support for essential activities such as MDT supply and logistics.