Colombia has been verified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as
having eliminated the parasitic disease onchocerciasis (known as “river
blindness”), thus becoming the first country in the world to achieve
In an official notification letter, WHO director-general Margaret
Chan congratulated the government of Colombia and urged it to “maintain
vigilance to detect any future outbreaks” of the disease, which
continues to circulate in other countries of Latin America.
Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Pan American Health
Organization (PAHO), WHO’s Regional Office for the Americas, said
Colombia’s achievement is “an example of commitment, persistence, and
integrated work” and noted that the Americas Region has shown leadership
in fighting this and other neglected infectious diseases. She also
called for “redoubling efforts to eliminate the disease” in five other
countries of this hemisphere, namely, Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala,
Mexico, and Venezuela, which are working toward achieving this same
The official announcement came during a meeting in Bogotá led by
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and minister of health and social
protection Alejandro Gaviria, with participants including former U.S.
president Jimmy Carter, director of the Carter Center, which spearheaded
the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program of the Americas (OEPA),
supporting actions to eliminate the disease. PAHO’s assistant director,
José Romero Teruel, and the PAHO/WHO representative in Colombia, Gina
Watson, also participated in the meeting.
Colombia achieved elimination of onchocerciasis following 16
years of concerted efforts led by Colombia’s National Institute of
Health with support from the Ministry of Health and Social Protection,
the Secretariat of Health of the Department of Cauca, academic and
research institutions, OEPA, and PAHO/WHO.
Article continued at this link: http://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/news/2013/08/colombia-is-first-country-in-the-world-to-eliminate-parasitic-disease-river-blindness.aspx