Neglected tropical diseases

WHO Executive Board requests resolution on a comprehensive approach to global vector control

3 February 2017 | Geneva

The recent Zika emergency coupled with yellow fever outbreaks in Africa and upsurges in dengue and chikungunya cases have shone a spotlight on the global threat posed by vector-borne diseases.

In June 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a fast-tracked effort to develop a global plan to boost vector control capacity worldwide. The broadly consultative process drew on expertise from across WHO, Ministries of Health and other key technical and development partners.

The WHO Executive Board, composed of representatives from 34 countries, reviewed the proposed Global vector control response 2017–2030 in late January. In view of Member States’ strong support for the proposed plan, the Board requested that the WHO Secretariat, in collaboration with interested Member States, prepare a resolution for consideration by all 192 Member States at the 70th World Health Assembly in May 2017.

“For decades, dengue and chikungunya have shown us that reacting to an outbreak is not enough. It is time for a clear global strategy that combines efforts to counter the increasing burden and threat of vector-borne diseases” said Dr Dirk Engels, Director of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases.

The Global vector control response provides strategic guidance to countries and development partners for the strengthening of vector control as a fundamental approach to preventing disease and responding to outbreaks. Achieving this will require re-alignment of vector control programmes, supported by increased technical capacity, strengthened monitoring and surveillance systems, and improved infrastructure.

"This initiative will elevate vector control as a key pillar for public health action in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals. We stand ready to work with Member States to provide the technical assistance required to adapt to the changing vector control needs and challenges ” said Dr Pedro Alonso, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme.

An important component of the response is the focus on building a research agenda to guide academic and research institutes as they work during the period 2017–2030.

"Innovative vector control research is key to defeating vector-borne diseases. We will work with the vector control community to scale up support for research, monitoring and evaluation at all levels" said Dr John Reeder, Director of the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases.

To attain effective, locally adapted and sustainable vector control, action is focused on four fundamental pillars:

  • strengthened collaboration with non-health sectors, along with improved coordination of activities within the health sector;
  • enhanced surveillance of vectors and better monitoring of vector control implementation to support the data-driven planning and implementation of vector control;
  • scale up and integration of vector control tools and approaches appropriate to the epidemiological and entomological contexts; and
  • engagement and mobilization of communities to implement vector control actions through appropriate participatory community-based approaches.

Success in implementing these pillars will depend on strong country leadership, concerted advocacy, resource mobilization and partner coordination, as well as appropriate regulatory, policy and normative support.

The Response was prepared by the two Departments within WHO – the Global Malaria Programme and the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases – and by the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases.

WHO regional offices and a Steering Committee consisting of representatives of Member States, experts and scientists provided critical support. Input was also received through a consultative process with stakeholders, including organizations of the United Nations system, scientific and research groups, nongovernmental organizations and implementation partners.

Vector-borne diseases: burden, morbidity and mortality

Major vector-borne diseases account for an estimated 17% of the global burden of communicable diseases and claim more than 700 000 lives every year. The burden is highest in tropical and subtropical areas.

At least four out of every five people worldwide are at risk of contracting viruses or parasites transmitted by mosquitoes, flies, ticks, fleas and other vectors. Together, vector-borne diseases cause more than 1 million deaths each year. Many who survive are left permanently disabled or disfigured.

The risk of infection is particularly high in towns and cities where vectors proliferate and where contact with human beings is high. Disease burden is often disproportionately high in poorer populations.

Social, demographic and environmental factors have altered the transmission patterns of the causative pathogens, resulting in intensified transmission, geographical spread and re-emergence or extension of transmission seasons. Unplanned urbanization and the lack of a reliable piped water supply or solid waste management can render large populations in towns and cities at risk of viral diseases spread by mosquitoes.

Despite these challenges, most vector-borne diseases can be prevented through vector control, if it is planned and implemented well and sustained. A comprehensive approach to vector control will accelerate progress towards the achievement of disease-specific national and global goals and contribute to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.

For more information, contact:

Ashok Moloo
Telephone: +41 22 791 16 37
Mobile phone: +41 79 540 50 86

Jamie Guth
Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases
Telephone: +41 79 441 22 89

Saira Stewart
Global Malaria Programme
Programme Support & Management
Telephone: +41 79 500 65 38