With support from The Mectizan Donation Program (MDP) at The Task Force, Togo is now the first country in Africa to eliminate lymphatic filariasis (LF) as a public health problem.
LF is a debilitating infection caused by a parasite transmitted by mosquitoes. An estimated 120 million people in 73 countries live with the disease, which can cause extreme enlargement of limbs and genitals that result in painful conditions called hydrocele and elephantiasis.
Togo began its LF national elimination program in 2000 that included annual mass drug administration with ivermectin and albendazole. These antiparasitic medicines are donated by Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) and GSK, respectively. MDP works with partners to ensure that these medicines reach populations in need.
MDP Director Yao Sodahlon, MD, is a Togolese national and expert in tropical diseases who worked closely over the years with the ministry of health and other partners to ensure Togo reached the elimination goal.
“I am very proud of my country for achieving elimination of LF,” he said. “My colleagues in the ministry of health must be congratulated for their dedication to ensuring the medications were consistently delivered to the millions of people at-risk of infection. I hope other countries in Africa will soon follow Togo in achieving this goal.”
The elimination of LF in Togo follows similar progress in seven countries (Cambodia, Cook Islands, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Niue, Sri Lanka and Vanuatu) validated by the World Health Organization to have eliminated LF as a public health problem. Thirteen additional countries have successfully completed large-scale treatment programs and are under surveillance to demonstrate that elimination has been achieved. This progress has been supported by a public-private partnership, the Global Alliance for the Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis (GAELF), which brings together academic and research institutions, endemic counties, non-governmental development organizations, financial donors and the private sector in the fight against LF.
“We celebrate this important achievement with the people of Togo. Lymphatic filariasis is a debilitating, but preventable, disease that not only affects patients and their families but also communities and health care systems,” said Julie L. Gerberding, MD, MSD’s chief patient officer. “Working with our partners for nearly two decades, we strive to eliminate LF in Africa and Yemen to help improve the lives of tens of millions of people.”
“Achieving elimination of LF is a fantastic achievement for Togo and is testament to the commitment of the Togolese Government and the dedication of the health workers delivering treatments on the front line,” said Phil Thomson, president of GSK Global Affairs, said. “We are committed to playing our part with the donation of albendazole for as long as it is needed to replicate this success throughout endemic countries, freeing communities from the burden of LF.”