“Every year more than one million people die from diseases carried by mosquitoes, flies, ticks and other insects, such as triatomine bugs. These vector-borne diseases – which include malaria, dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, Chagas disease and leishmaniasis – cause chronic illness and immense suffering for hundreds of millions more” stated the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon in his message on World Health Day which is commemorated every year on 7 April.
The day marks the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948. On this day the UN draws attention to a public health problem of global proportions and what needs to be done to address it.
This year the theme for World Health Day was vector-borne diseases and the slogan for this year’s campaign is "Small bite, big threat" which aims to raise awareness about the threat posed by vectors and vector-borne diseases and to stimulate families and communities to take action to protect themselves.
In Tehran, the commemoration took place on 15 April at Ministry of Health and Medical Education. Among the attendees were Deputy Minister of Health, Director-General of Centre for Diseases Control, Head of Military Health Center along with other government officials and UN officials including WHO Representative in Iran and the UN Resident Coordinator.
In I. R. Iran, malaria is considered to be among the most important vector-borne diseases. For more than half a century, the country has made significant efforts to control the disease.
Iran has succeeded to reducing the number of local malaria cases from 5,594 in 2008, to 499 in 2013. In addition, 800,000 persons, who used to be at risk of malaria in 2008, now live in areas free from malaria.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Mehdi Gouya, Director-General of Centre for Disease Control said: “Since the human behaviors, such as domestic and industrial waste depot at peoples residence has a significant role in prevalence of these type of diseases, awareness raising and trainings should be carried out for all the individuals in the society specially those who are at risk of these vector-borne diseases and are living in areas that are capable of growth and reproduction of insects."
The UN Resident Coordinator then delivered the message of Mr. Ban Ki-Moon in which he urges “All countries and development partners to make vector control a priority. Let us work together to tackle this serious but eminently preventable threat to human health and development.”
WHO Representative in Iran, Dr. Jihane Tawilah delivered the message of the Regional Director of WHO, Dr. Ala Alwan on the occasion of World Health Day in which he states: “As our world changes and develops around us, and as we travel more frequently and easily to other countries, so the threat posed by these diseases is also changing. Over the years, some of them have spread to areas where they did not occur before, and they have expanded and intensified their transmission in places where they are already present.”
He added: “Climate change, population movement, uncontrolled urbanization, poor housing, and lack of safe water and sanitation all contribute to this. As yet, there are no vaccines to prevent vector-borne diseases, except for yellow fever. But there are things people can do to protect themselves. Keep the environment clean. Use personal protection, such as insect repellent. Sleep under bed nets, cover water containers, and get rid of stagnant water from places where mosquitoes breed, such as unused containers, flower pots, old tyres, broken glass and roof gutters. These measures really can save lives.”
Short video clips and national success stories were shared with the audience. The winner of this year's WHO art competition was also announced and awarded at the commemoration ceremony.