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Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal

Print version ISSN 1020-3397

East. Mediterr. health j. vol.13 no.5 Cairo Sept./Oct. 2007


Letter from the editor



The Fifty-fourth session of the Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean is being held in the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office in Cairo, Egypt, from 20 to 23 October 2007.

One of the important topics on the agenda in this year's meeting is neglected tropical diseases, which are an emerging public health problem in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

There are 14 diseases that WHO regards as neglected tropical diseases, namely Buruli ulcer, Chagas disease, cholera/epidemic diarrhoeal diseases, dengue/dengue haemorrhagic fever, dracunculiasis, endemic treponematoses, human African trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis and trachoma. They are considered neglected as they have generally been forgotten in wealthier places where they have been mostly eliminated, and research and efforts to eliminate or control them has not had a high priority.

However, in the poorest and the most marginalized communities, mainly in tropical and subtropical parts of the world, they are still prevalent; in fact it is estimated that neglected tropical diseases affect about 1 billion people, causing considerable suffering for the individuals.

There are strategies for the prevention and control of neglected tropical diseases, and success against them is possible with the will and the necessary resources. Indeed, progress has been made in tackling many of them, but more still needs to be done. WHO is committed to supporting Member States and partners to minimize their burden.

Several of these diseases are found in countries of this Region and have been the subject of research papers published in EMHJ. To that extent they have not been neglected in our Region. In fact in this issue we include a paper assessing diagnostic tests for sleeping sickness from Sudan and a report on leishmaniasis from Pakistan.

Information about what the WHO Regional Office has been doing to help Member States deal with neglected tropical diseases can be found in the Regional Director's report: The Work of WHO in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. Annual Report of the Regional Director 1 January-31 December 2006, which is available online at: