Features — 08 April 2014 — by Kareem Clarke

The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), and the Ministry of Health have joined forces in the celebration of World Health Day today at the Belize City Lions Club parking lot on Princess Margaret Drive.

According to the World Health Organization, vector-borne diseases are entirely preventable and a newly published article called “A global brief on vector-borne diseases” outlines steps that governments, community groups and families can all take to protect people from infection.

Vector-borne diseases are known to affect the poorest populations, particularly where there is a lack of access to adequate housing, safe drinking water and sanitation, and malnourished people and those with weakened immunity are especially susceptible.

WHO reports that within the past two decades many important vector-borne diseases have also re-emerged or spread to new parts of the world and environmental changes, a massive increase in international travel and trade, changes in agricultural practices and rapid unplanned urbanization are causing an increase in the number and spread of many vectors worldwide and making new groups of people, notably tourists and business travelers, vulnerable. Mosquito-borne dengue, for example, is now found in 100 countries, putting more than 2.5 billion people, or over 40% of the world’s population, at risk.

Dr. Lorenzo Savioli, Director of WHO’s Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases, said, “Vector control remains the most important tool in preventing outbreaks of vector-borne diseases”, adding that “Increased funds and political commitment are needed to sustain existing vector-control tools, as well as medicines and diagnostic tools to conduct urgently needed research.”

In commemoration of World Health Day 2014, WHO is calling for a renewed focus on vector control and better provision of safe water, sanitation and hygiene.

This year’s theme is centered on vector-borne diseases, with the slogan, “Small Bites, Big Threat”. The aim is to highlight the serious and increasing threat of vector-borne diseases.

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