The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared Ghana free of human African trypanosomiasis otherwise known as sleeping sickness.
This makes it the third neglected tropical disease (NTD) the country has eliminated in recent times as it strives to meet the WHO 2030 roadmap on NTDs.
In 2015 and 2018 respectively, Ghana received validation for the elimination of Guinea worm and trachoma.
The WHO Country Representative, Dr Francis Kasolo, made this known on the commemoration of World NTD Day in Accra yesterday.
Instituted four years ago, NTD Day is to mobilise political will and commitment towards eliminating some ‘ancient’ diseases that continue to pose a public health threat to the world.
This year’s celebration on the theme; “Act Now, Act Together, Invest in NTDs” calls for intensified efforts to ensure access to treatment and care for all persons affected with NTDs and increase surveillance for diseases earmarked for elimination.
Currently, Ghana is endemic for 14 out of the 20 NTDs the world is grappling with, with every district having at least two NTDs prevalence.
The new global NTD roadmap (2021-2030) requires however, that 100 countries eliminate at least one NTD by 2030 with all others decreasing the number of people requiring NTDs interventions by 90 per cent by 2030.
Dr Kasolo, lauding Ghana for the feat achieved in the fight against NTDs urged government to allocate adequate resources moving forward, to break further transmissions and attain elimination.
“For effective control and elimination of the NTDs that are endemic in Ghana, there need to be an improved healthcare services operating in an efficient health system with well-managed supply chain management which ensures universal access to quality assured medicines,” he said.
The Deputy Director General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Anthony Adofo Ofosu said, although most NTDs do not kill, its debilitating effects had huge socio-economic impact.
“NTDs perpetuate a cycle of poor educational outcomes and limited professional opportunities and are associated with stigma and social exclusion.
Everyone has a key role to play. By bringing renewed attention to NTDs, building political will and mobilising resources, and putting individuals and communities at the centre of the response, we can collectively generate the attention and resources needed to deliver against the targets outlined in the WHO 2030 NTD road map and SDG3,” he said.
African trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness is caused by parasites of genus trypanosoma, transmitted by infected tsetse flies and is endemic in 36 sub-Saharan African countries where there are tsetse flies that transmit the disease.
Without diagnosis and treatment, the disease is considered 100 per cent fatal.
The people most exposed to the tsetse fly and to the disease live in rural areas and depend on agriculture, fishing, animal husbandry or hunting.
BY ABIGAIL ANNOH