Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) in Africa by 2020 is within reach thanks to efforts from governments, private sector players, civil society organisations and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
This was observed by by Matshidiso Moeti, the Regional Director for Africa at WHO. She was speaking at the ongoing conference on eliminating NTDs in Kigali to review progress towards the elimination of the five most prevalent NTDs in Africa.
Africa accounts for 39% of the 1.5 billion global NTDs infections. The most five prevalent NTDs include lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis, schistosomiasis and trachoma. NTDs kill at least 170,000 people every year, according to WHO figures.
These dangerous and destructive diseases can be prevented and treated, yet they continue to cause severe disfigurement and other long-term disabilities that create obstacles to education, employment, economic growth and overall development.
In 2016, the WHO launched the Expanded Special Project for Elimination (ESPEN) of NTDs to help African countries accelerate the elimination of the five most prevalent NTDs by sharing best practices, coordinating activities and offering technical guidance.
“With communities and entire nations struggling under the burden of these diseases, increased financial support, stronger political commitment and better tools to prevent, diagnose and treat the diseases are vital to defeat NTDs,” Dr Moeti said.
Throughout the continent, she said, countries are making progress towards NTD control and elimination.
For instance, in 2017, Togo managed to eliminate lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem. Ghana has done the same with trachoma.
Rwanda’s Minister for Health, Dr Diane Gashumba, said she was convinced that by scaling up coverage of preventive treatment and sustainably protect communities, African economies will be improved.
“My sincere hope is that this meeting here will provide new ideas and valuable input for our work as health professionals committed to eliminating Neglected Tropical Diseases,” she said.
Recent statistics show that Rwanda is on the right track to end NTDs. Since 2008 the ministry has been carrying out mass deworming campaigns against intestinal worms for high risk population mainly children between one and 15 years and against Bilharzia for children from 5 to 15 years from endemic areas. Such campaigns have been carried out around lakes and marshes.
In addition, the ministry is training 45,000 community health workers on clinical management of NTDs.