Health leaders of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), on Thursday agreed on a new plan of action to eradicate eight neglected infectious diseases and to significantly cut the burden of five others within the next six years.This decision was made at the 55th Directing Council of PAHO in Washington, in which Public Health Minister George Norton is participating. Some of the diseases targeted for eradication include the Chagas disease, human rabies transmitted by dogs, leprosy, and river blindness.Earlier this year, the Public Health Ministry held a joint stakeholder meeting to review the existing National Action Plan for Neglected Infectious Diseases (NIDs) in Guyana. Junior Public Health Minister Dr Karen Cummings had noted that diseases were spreading much quicker than before, with the most recent being the rapid transmission of Chikungunya and Zika.She noted that while NIDs were thought to be restricted to developing countries, climate and inadequate health structures are now allowing the organisms and their vectors to thrive in developed countries which will lead to more frequent outbreaks.This, she acknowledged, is a “worrying development” and one which strongly indicates that it might be the time to reassess the old ideas about distribution of these diseases and rethink the way public health programmes are managed.The health leaders’ decision calls for actions to reduce the risk of reintroduction of these diseases in the post-elimination phase. Director of PAHO’s Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis Department, Marcos Espinal, said the plan is an example of the renewed regional commitment to the wellbeing of the most vulnerable population, especially those living in vulnerable conditions in rural and marginalised areas.The diseases targeted for elimination by 2022 are: trachoma, Chagas disease, human rabies transmitted by dogs, leprosy, human taeniasis and cysticercosis tapeworm infections, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis (river blindness), and schistosomiasis while the following are targeted for prevention, control, and a reduction in the burden of disease: cystic echinococcosis (hydatidosis), fascioliasis, human plague, leishmaniasis (cutaneous and visceral), and soil-transmitted helminth infections (intestinal worms).Neglected infectious diseases affect primarily populations living in extreme poverty and cause suffering, permanent disability, and death. In Latin America and the Caribbean, an estimated 46 million children live in areas at high risk of infection or reinfection with soil-transmitted helminths, while nearly 11 million people are at risk of blinding trachoma, and 70.2 million are at risk of Chagas disease.Head of PAHO’s Neglected, Tropical, and Vector Borne Diseases unit Luis Gerardo Castellanos, said: “The complex geographical distribution, forms of transmission, and social determinants of these diseases make their elimination more difficult”.Castellanos stated that in order to eliminate them the States would need integrated programmes to prevent and detect more than one of these infections, since the diseases often affect the same population groups.The new plan, which builds on previous efforts and successes, identifies the need to scale up early detection and diagnosis of cases, decentralise clinical management and guarantee skilled and sufficient human resources to ensure timely and affordable access to medicines and care for anyone who needs them.The plan also recommends simultaneously tackling several diseases affecting the same population groups, and reducing transmission risk by increasing access to safe water, basic sanitation, hygiene, and improved housing conditions.So far, Guyana has identified four strategic priority areas: government ownership, coordination and partnership through re-enforcement of ownership by the institution of Guyana; NIDs control and elimination activities and capacity building of health personnel at all levels. They will also plan and advocate and resource mobilisation and sustainability; integrate and link NIDs activities with other public health activities; surveillance, monitoring and evaluation of NIDs programmes.“The Ministry of Public Health is making a bold statement to the people of Guyana that we are willing to partner with likeminded individuals and organisations to frontally approach NIDs in Guyana,” the minister had stated.PAHO Vector Control Unit head Dr Jean Seme Fils Alexandre had stated that PAHO is currently drafting a regional Neglected Infectious Diseases plan for 2016-2022, and he believes that the PAHO plan can be used to guide Guyana’s National Action Plan for NIDs control.He stated that the NIDs and other poverty-infectious diseases rank together with diseases like HIV, Malaria, and TB as the most serious globally and in the Americas.In 2005, over 46 million children in Latin American and Caribbean countries are living in areas at risk of infection and reinfection, he said.