World health report

Executive summary

Foodborne, waterborne and soilborne diseases

WHO concluded an agreement with Swiss Disaster Relief to provide technical assistance in epidemic diarrhoea control and preparedness, and established links with other agencies and organizations working in the same field. For instance, collaboration began with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the newly independent States of eastern Europe and central Asia.

Under the southern African initiative for control of epidemic diarrhoea, a team in Harare continued to coordinate activities aimed at improved preparedness and response to outbreaks of cholera and epidemic dysentery. Five African countries received support in the areas of policy formulation, developing surveillance systems and strengthening laboratory services. Surveillance and control strategies were set up in refugee camps in the United Republic of Tanzania and in Zaire. Six African countries faced with outbreaks of cholera or dysentery received technical assistance and emergency supplies.

WHO reassessed the distribution and prevalence of schistosomiasis in the world and its social and economic impact. Trials demonstrated the safety and efficacy of a combination of albendazole against common intestinal helminths and praziquantel against schistosomiasis.

Dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease) is on the verge of eradication. WHO's priorities are to achieve the interruption of transmission as quickly as technically feasible, and to facilitate the work of the independent International Commission for the Certification of Dracunculiasis Eradication (created in 1995) by setting up and conducting the certification process. The objectives are to search for remaining, unknown foci of the disease; to verify whether low-risk countries are dracunculiasis-free; and to secure the necessary funding to complete the eradication process.

As part of its efforts to prevent foodborne diseases, WHO is studying the microbiological contamination of foods and patterns of human behaviour that may lead to the growth or survival of Vibrio cholerae and other foodborne pathogens. The Organization issued a report recommending measures to control newly emerging foodborne pathogens such as trematodes. The Joint FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission ensures that internationally agreed food standards, guidelines and other recommendations are consistent with health protection. Following the creation of the World Trade Organization, the Codex now serves as the international reference for national requirements.