By Dr. Matshidiso Moeti
Over the past six along with also a half years, we’ve witnessed an extraordinary international endeavour to stamp out Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), a group of dangerous, destructive conditions that will threaten the lives along with also well-being of more than 1.5 billion people worldwide. NTDs earned their name because they were relatively unknown along with also overlooked for decades. nevertheless that will is actually rapidly changing, thanks to the coordinated efforts of governments, health along with also development organizations, donors, along with also private companies.
These efforts consolidated with the signing of the London Declaration in January 2012, when stakeholders committed to controlling or eliminating 10 NTDs by 2020. that will was followed by pharmaceutical companies pledging more than US$17.8 billion in drug donations, which provided an essential arsenal of drugs to combat these diseases. Then, in May 2016, the planet Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Office for Africa created the Expanded Special Project for Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ESPEN) to coordinate actions of NTD affected countries along with also public along with also private entities to accelerate the elimination of NTDs in Africa by 2020.
Africa carries almost 40 percent of the worldwide burden of NTDs. all 5 of these NTDs can be cured along with also prevented using preventive medicine (preventive chemotherapy or PC). A total of 44 African nations have widespread occurrence of at least one PC NTD along with also 42 countries of at least two. These diseases can ravage entire families along with also communities, causing debilitating physical along with also mental symptoms, terrible disfigurement, along with also long-lasting disabilities. along with also because they prevent people by going to work along with also children by attending school, they have an enormous impact on financial stability along with also educational attainment.
The ESPEN Partnership has provided a strong coordination framework to coordinate the fight against NTDs, along with also that will has helped bring about tremendous results over the past two years. Through This kind of coordinated action, we are working on filling the gaps along with also reaching all those never reached before with mass drug administration, along with also improving supply chain management to ensure every donated tablet reach the children along with also families who need them. ESPEN has worked in close collaboration with Ministries of Health in NTD affected countries for the development of annual national plans of action to better leverage donated drugs, scale up treatments to 100% geographical coverage along with also improve management of their programs.
We are producing impressive strides in Sub-Saharan Africa. Last year, Togo eliminated lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem, along with also Ghana eliminated trachoma in May 2018. As health technicians, partners along with also community health workers continue to come together to aid along with also protect the most vulnerable members of our communities, we are poised to reach similar milestones in some other nations throughout Africa.
Progress is actually being also made in addressing NTDs which require affected individuals to be managed in an integrated way. In February 2018, Kenya became the 41st country out of the 47 Member States inside African Region to be certified free of Guinea worm disease. Leprosy is actually being eliminated as a public health problem, along with also Human African Trypanosomiasis is actually moving steadily towards elimination.
Recognizing the pivotal role, the ESPEN Partnership in playing in reducing the prevalence of NTDs along with also improving the overall public health systems in Africa, the United States government has just announced an extra $4 million commitment to the initiative. nevertheless even as we receive greater recognition along with also economic assistance by countries, donors, organizations along with also corporations throughout the planet, that will remains imperative for these entities, along with also particularly African nations, not only to maintain their commitment to fighting NTDs, nevertheless to enhance their investments.
For every $1 we invest in fighting NTDs, $27 to $42 benefits Africa economically. If we are able to meet our 2020 goal, sub-Saharan Africa could save almost $52 billion in productivity over the next decade. By 2030, we could generate an estimated $565 billion in productivity gains worldwide. Without a doubt, investing in NTD prevention along with also treatment is actually one of the greatest best buys for health.
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) simply can’t be done without eliminating NTDs. Our critical work to combat these diseases, which affect the poorest along with also most vulnerable among us with the least access to safe sanitation along with also health care, is actually essential to the goals of reducing poverty, ending malnutrition, improving water along with also sanitation, along with also achieving gender equality. In fact, SDG 3 specifically names NTDs as a target for eradication by 2030.
Not only must we celebrate the impressive strides we’ve made in such a short time, we must capitalize on them. We must push forward with measures such as preventive chemotherapy inside most at-risk communities. We must ensure that will everyone has access to timely treatment along with also care, because no one should have to suffer needlessly by entirely preventable along with also treatable diseases. With over 1.5 billion people still needing help, including about 60 million in Africa, This kind of is actually not the time to slow down. Rather, that will’s time to ramp up our efforts along with also take advantage of This kind of opportunity to eliminate NTDs once along with also for all. This kind of would certainly be a historic legacy of our generation.
Regional Director of WHO inside African Region