A high-level stakeholder meeting to build synergies on accelerating efforts towards eliminating Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in the West African sub-region opened in Accra yesterday.
Organised by the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), the three-day meeting drew participants at the helm of government, development partners, the scientific community, academia and civil society to discuss progress on the 2030 roadmap for NTDs.
It was on the theme; “Leaving no one behind; integrated and multi-sectoral approaches to free Africa of all NTDs by the year 2030.”
Addressing the conference on behalf of the WAHO Director-General, the NTDs focal person, William Kofi Bosu, indicated that the impact of NTDs on health, livelihoods and the sub-regional development could not be over-emphasised.
“These diseases affect about 1.7 billion people in the world, which is one-sixth of the global population and they are poverty defining, it further deepens the problem of inequality.
At this stage of our national development we cannot have diseases like these that are preventable affecting a huge number of our people,” he said.
Mr Bosu said although, some level of progress had been attained in the sub-region in eradicating NTDs, interventions were isolated and that retarded collective success.
“Only about 55 per cent of the 372 million who are estimated to need treatment are actually receiving treatment. We need the political will, ensure that our Ministers commit to integrating NTDs in the national health agenda and share experiences to scale up the tools that we know works to meet the 2030 goal,” he said.
The Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu in a speech read on his behalf noted that Ghana was still endemic for several NTDs despite modest success chalked with the elimination of conditions like trachoma in 2018.
He mentioned some of the challenges in the NTDs fight as domestic financing, integrated approaches and multi-sectoral collaborations as well as low community acceptance and participation in control and elimination interventions.
“For instance, in 2020, only about half of the 17.2 million people in Ghana needing treatment for at least one of the five NTDs received treatment,” he said.
To address the challenge, Mr Agyeman-Manu, said the Health Ministry had initiated strategic partnership, collaboration and development of the universal health coverage (UHC) roadmap which is underpinned by principles of human rights, equity, gender and people-centred approaches to promote general healthcare.
“Its main elements are ensuring financial risk protection and so increasing access to primary healthcare services. The causes of NTDs were multi-sectoral and required multi-sector interventions to tackle them,” he said.
In 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched a new roadmap for the prevention, control, elimination and eradication of a diverse set of 20 NTDs as a public health problem.
NTDs are a diverse group of conditions found in tropical and sub-tropical settings across 149 countries.
In Africa alone, NTDs cause an estimated 200,000 deaths per year with populations living in poverty, without sufficient access to clean water and adequate sanitation infrastructure and who live in close contact with infectious vectors, domestic animals and livestock, are the most affected.
All countries on the region are endemic for at least one of the following; elephantiasis, blinding trachoma, intestinal worms, bilharzia and river blindness.
BY ABIGAIL ANNOH