Yaws eradication to continue in Vanautu - WHO
World Health Oganisation aims to completely eliminate the highly contagious skin disease yaws in Vanuatu following a successful campaign in the province of Tafea.
The World Health Oganisation says it aims to completely eradicate the highly contagious skin disease yaws in Vanuatu following a successful campaign in the province of Tafea.
Vanuatu is one of only three Pacific countries still affected by yaws, which is a bacterial infection transmitted by direct skin contact that can cause ulcers.
WHO's liaison officer for Vanuatu, Dr Jacob Kool, told Amelia Langford that health authorities enlisted the help of community leaders to help stop the spread of the disease.
DR JACOB KOOL: I think that last campaign was very successful. We have an estimate that we treated 96 percent of the entire population of Tafea province which is an unheard of high coverage. In Vanuatu it is usually very difficult to convince people to participate in these mass campaigns. There have been mass campaigns for yaws but they often didn't reach more than 50 or 60 percent of the population.
AMELIA LANGFORD:Tell me about that, how did you overcome some of those obstacles to getting everybody to take this antibiotic?
JK: We put a lot of effort into approaching the population in the culturally appropriate way. We first had many sessions with chiefs and community leaders, also with religious leaders, church leaders, asked many questions, and we got them involved in helping us to make a strategic plan, a communications plan on how to convince people to participate, and then there was the kickoff, a large ceremony that all the chiefs and other community leaders, politicians, and on the camera, on radio and tv, they took the pills themselves to show the population it was not harmful and was good for them. I think all these things have worked out really well. We would go to villages and people would approach us. they would really say 'okay we have been waiting all day, we really want those pills'. People would even come back for another dose later, which of course was not possible.
AL: Okay, so where to from here? It has obviously been very successful in Tafea, will WHO now take on the rest of the country?
JK: Yeah, that's the big challenge. We are still struggling to find enough funding for this because we still have to pay for the tablets and for the tests that we use to determine whether an ulcer is actually yaws or something else. These things cost money so we are struggling to find enough funding but we are continuing. There are trainings scheduled for all the health staff in the provinces and we have enough tablets for the next 12 months or so but what is necessary is that this programme is continued for at least three years, possibly a few more years, to mop up the last few cases and what actually has to happen is that a case of yaws is immediately recognised by a health worker and is then immediately reported. It is important to realise that for every case of yaws with ulcers there are about 20 people who can carry the bacteria without any symptoms.
Dr Jacob Kool says the work against yaws will continue in collaboration with Vanuatu's Ministry of Health.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: