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Mathieu Bangert - Technical Officer World Health Organisation

Mathieu Bangert

Technical Officer

World Health Organistion ( WHO)

Interview by Marianne Comparet (ISNTD)

Mathieu Bangert is Technical Officer in the Department of Neglected Tropical Diseases at the World Health Organisation, the department responsible for developing multisectoral approaches to the control of NTDs. At the recent Global NTD Partners Meeting in Geneva in April 2017, celebrating both 10 years of multi-stakeholder collaboration in NTD control as well as the launch of the WHO’s latest report “Integrating neglected tropical diseases in global health and development”, the ISNTD caught up with Mathieu Bangert to discuss the role of vector control in the global control, elimination and eradication of several vector-borne NTDs.

Thank you, Mathieu, for joining us for this ISNTD interview, here in Geneva. Could you introduce yourself and your role as technical officer at the WHO?

I work in the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases at the WHO where I work both in epidemiology of vector-borne disease and also support the health economists in strategy development and implementation. For vector-borne diseases I am in the department focusing on dengue and we are very excited to be driving the global vector control response which looks at integrating all the different vector borne diseases which are being addressed by various groups at the WHO into one global response.

A shared view among our partners and members working in vector control is that the effort in this field can often be a reactive and short-term response to outbreaks. The WHO has been taking the lead to unify a more long-term protocol & methodology to tackling vector-borne diseases - is this something that you have been focusing on specifically, and what can we expect in the near future?

You are right that the community is very reactive to outbreaks starting whether in terms of the chikungunya outbreak in the Caribbean, the constant dengue outbreaks we see in all WHO regions and most recently the zika and yellow fever outbreaks - we are always chasing behind the outbreaks. So what we are really working on is to try to convince governments themselves to switch from responsive vector control to sustained vector control by both showing the epidemiological reasons, and therefore proving that it definitely has an impact on vector populations if you have a sustained approach to vector control – there is also a strong financial benefit from investing a regular amount of money over the year as opposed to having to quickly mobilise resources at short notice during an outbreak.

So, a double approach: one mobilising political will by keeping governments engaged in vector control, as well as the financial argument – a very well-rounded and compelling approach. As the WHO celebrates the launch of the new report on progress on NTD control this week in Geneva, do you feel that vector control as a strategy for NTD control has been sufficiently highlighted?

We were very happy to hear Margaret Chan discuss in her opening and closing remarks the importance of vector control for these diseases. And I think that representatives of member states brought up dengue as a big burden and issue for them. In addition, in the discussions on the financing of NTD control, partners were bringing up dengue and vector control as an important aspect. So I do feel that vector control was in the priorities, both for the WHO with our Director General highlighting this in opening and closing remarks as well as directly for the member states reinforcing the need to secure this both financially and practically as a strategy to respond to urgent disease outbreaks.

Building on this momentum, are there new partners which you would like to see entering this space? You spoke of the importance of mobilising governments - what about the private sector in endemic countries? For example, do you feel private companies making and distributing insecticides are sufficiently engaged in terms of overall public health strategies?

As you know we have the Sustainable Development Goals framework with one of the goals being set as zero dengue deaths by 2020. What we are pushing for is precisely a greater collaboration with other sectors and most notably urban planning – this is represented by the safe cities SDG goal and we would like to see the cities and organisations working on urbanisation and and planning to also look at vector control and risks as an integral part of their vision.

Water, sanitation & hygiene, which is embedded in the SDG 6, is also another sector where we would like to increase partnership with. For example, if messages are being sent out to the public about improving water quality, sanitation and hygiene in general, this also could include messages about protecting your water sources from mosquitoes and their eggs, or getting rid of stagnant water points. Another example is that providing piped water doesn’t just impact on the prevalence of soil-transmitted helminths but also has a major impact on vector control. These are the kinds of relationships that we would like to strengthen and with a very important focus on strengthening the involvement and engagement of local communities and community work.

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