Stop stigmatising persons with NTD – Dr Asemanyi-Mensah

Ghana yesterday commemorated this year’s World Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Day with an appeal to members of the public to stop stigmatising persons suffering the condition to enable them seek proper medical care.

The Programme Manager at the Ghana Health Service, Dr Kofi Asemanyi-Mensah, said NTDs were not ‘spiritual’ as perceived by most people, but caused mainly by parasites and bacteria which could be cured medically.

“The biggest problem we are having in fighting the NTDs is stigmatisation. Someone with a swollen leg goes to a hospital and people begin moving away from him or her. It discourages people from seeking medical care, and prefer to stay in their homes which worsens their situation.

We are advocating that people become ambassadors of NTDs; that they are not a curse or anything spiritual, so that people come to our health facilities for treatment,” he urged.

Marked on the theme “Achieving Health Equity to End the Neglect of Poverty Related Diseases,” this year’s commemoration seeks to push for equity in the delivery of health services to end NTDs.

It calls for a comprehensive access to healthcare for everyone affected with NTD, and for stakeholders to make the necessary investments into eliminating the diseases amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, all 16 regions of Ghana are endemic with at least two NTDS.

Although Ghana has eliminated Guinea Worm, Trachoma, and on its way to eradicating trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), many others were still rife, especially in peri-urban and rural communities.

They include Lymphatic Filariasis (elephantiasis), Onchocerciasis (Oncho or river blindness), Schistosomiasis (bilharzia), soil-transmitted helminthiasis (hookworm), Buruli Ulcer, Yaws (a chronic infection that affects mainly the skin, bone and cartilage), Leprosy and Leishmaniasis (transmitted by the bite of sandflies).

Dr Asemanyi-Mensah indicated that in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2030 target on NTDS, the GHS was committed to keeping to its routine mass drug administration exercises to control the scourge in the country.

He advised the public to maintain sanitary and hygienic environment to avoid exposure to the NTDs, while stakeholders initiate bold investments, actions and collaborations to end NTDs by 2025 in Ghana.

The Director-General of the GHS, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, who performed the launch noted that NTDs were the fourth most devastating group of communicable diseases in the country, causing debilitating effects on patients and promoting the cycle of poverty.

He reiterated the need for multi-sectorial approach to address cross-cutting issues in ending NTDs to achieve the WHO 2030 roadmap.

Dr Francis Kasolo, the WHO Country Representative, in a speech read on his behalf urged government to allocate adequate resources for NTDs elimination while ensuring quality and equity in service delivery.

BY ABIGAIL ANNOH

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