Athlete Haile Gebresilassie in the forefront of the fight against Leishmaniasis
14 July 2010 | Addis Ababa
Athlete Haile Gebresilassie, famous long distance runner and 27 times world record breaker was recognized as Leishmaniasis advocate. In a ceremony held at the Sheraton Hotel, in Addis Ababa, His Excellency Dr. Kebede Worku – State Minister of Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and the WHO representative in Ethiopia– officially acknowledged Olympic champion Major Dr. Haile Gebresilassie as advocate in the fight against LEISHMANIASIS.
As advocate for the control of the leishmaniasis, Haile Gebreselassie gives an invaluable support to the fight against this disease, and contributes a lot towards all efforts to control and eliminate this scourge. Above all, he helps all concerned not to forget that, joining efforts under the leadership of the Ethiopian Government and the Ministry of Health.
On the occasion, on behalf of WHO Representative in Ethiopia Dr. Pascal Mkanda noted that advocacy is an important component of the leishmaniasis control program to raise public awareness and improve the attention towards the control program. To this effect, WHO has developed three film series on leishmaniasis in 3 different leishmaniasis high burden countries where Gebresilassie introduces the film series and serves as a trailer. One of the series was produced in Amhara region of Ethiopia which was affected by a major kala azar epidemic back in 2005.
Having acknowledged Haile’s unreserved cooperation as Leishmaniasis advocate, Dr. Worku expressed his appreciation to WHO, Government of Spain, MSF groups, national and international partners for achievements made so far and requested to continue the support in the fight against leishmaniasis.
The Spanish Deputy Ambassador in Ethiopia Mr. Nicolas Cimarra recalled the commitment of Spain to Ethiopia and its development as saying that Ethiopia is a priority country for the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), and the support of the health sector constitutes one of the main objectives of its action.
WHO is providing strong technical and financial support to the Leishmaniasis National Control Program of the FMOH since 2005. The support of the Spanish government through the AECID for the leishmaniasis control programs in Ethiopia started since 2006, and around 8000 patients have been treated in this period. In collaboration with the FMoH and partners, national ToT and cascade trainings were conducted since 2007. WHO has also worked in strengthening the health system, capacity building activities and financed and facilitated the procurement of diagnostic and treatment supplies for use by the centers providing leishmaniasis treatment services.
WHO’s support also includes support to the development of the national guidelines and intensified case management with active case finding through the involvement of mobile (outreach) teams in the most leishmaniasis endemic regions (Tigray and Amhara). The leishmaniasis task force and Technical Working Group were revitalized. Outbreak investigations and responses, supportive supervision and health promotion activities have also been made in close collaboration with the leishmaniasis endemic regions.
Leishmaniases are debilitating diseases caused by Leishmania parasites which are transmitted by the bite of sand flies. Over 350 million people being at risk, the annual incidence of leishmaniasis is about 2 million people globally. Various African countries are endemic to both cutaneous and visceral forms of leishmaniases especially East African countries (Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Uganda and Kenya) are highly affected. Visceral leishmaniasis, the fatal form of the disease, alone causes an estimated 500,000 cases and over 60,000 deaths per year globally. East Africa is the 2nd largest foci for visceral leishmaniasis following the Indian subcontinent. In the last 2 decades, leishmaniasis is spreading to new localities and VL/HIV co-infection is becoming an emerging problem.
If you need more information please visit the NTD web site on Leishmaniasis: Leishmaniasis website