WHO addressing leishmaniasis in high-risk areas of Syrian Arab Republic

Mentor Initiative

WHO implementing partner Mentor Initiative staff member teaching children about leishmaniasis during an awareness raising session.

Leishmaniasis is a neglected disease. It is estimated that every year over 40 000 new cases occur in Idleb, northern Hama and rural Aleppo alone, making this one of the worst-affected areas in the Syrian Arab Republic. It causes immense human suffering. Prevention and treatment solutions are in hand, and some countries have realized eradication. Despite the urgency and potential for eradication, leishmaniasis control and treatment activities have been structurally underfunded every year.

In 2019, with financial support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), WHO and its partner have implemented one of the first large-scale leishmaniasis prevention, control and treatment projects, reaching approximately 1.25 million people in north-western Syria.

WHO has increased access to appropriate care by improving leishmaniasis knowledge and skills in primary health-care facilities. For the first time in Syria, WHO has introduced thermotherapy machines in specialized leishmaniasis centres to improve treatment options for patients.

Preventative measures include distributing protective bed nets and spraying sandfly-preventing insecticides. Active community engagement and risk communication activities were also integrated into the project.