By Lincoln G. Peters
The World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti has disclosed that over 18 million people in Africa require interventions against Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).
According to Wikipedia, Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of tropical infections that are common in low-income populations in developing regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
They are caused by a variety of pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and parasitic worms [helminths]. These diseases are contrasted with the “big three” infectious diseases (HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria), which generally receive greater treatment and research funding.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the effect of neglected tropical diseases as a group is comparable to that of malaria and tuberculosis. NTD co-infection can also make HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis more deadly.
“Together, we have made huge strides against these diseases. There are currently 18 million fewer people in Africa who require interventions against NTDs,” she said.
The WHO official noted that 19 countries in the region have eliminated at least one NTD. Togo achieved a world first by eliminating four of these diseases – river blindness, elephantiasis, sleeping sickness, and Guinea worm disease. Yaws is on the verge of being eliminated, she stated.
According to her, ending these diseases is a ‘best buy’ for funding from partners, donors, and regional governments.
Dr. Moeti described the celebration of NTDs days as a time to reflect on the progress made in fighting these diseases and to recognize the urgent need for global and national authorities to reinforce their commitment and mobilize resources to accelerate the elimination of NTDs globally and in Africa.
The world on Monday, January 29, 2024, celebrated World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day, under the theme: Unite. Act. Eliminate.
NTDs are a significant occasion to consider the severe effects these diseases have on the well-being and livelihoods of billions around the globe.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa urged her fellow leaders across Africa and the world, to unite to tackle these devastating diseases, that affect the most vulnerable in the communities.
She believes that the presence of NTDs is a constant reminder of the inequalities in the world today, adding that she is asking leaders, as well as individuals and communities, to act, to spread awareness, to advocate with those in power, and to help to mobilize the resources needed to do this.
“And third, I am asking you to ensure that we eliminate – that we end – these diseases once and for all,” she said.
“Let’s build a world where no-one lives with river blindness, no-one is shunned by society because they are living with the ancient disease of leprosy, and no-one is debilitated by anemia because they are infected with soil-transmitted worms,” he stated.