By Vincess Okushi

The World Health Organization (WHO) has charged regional governments and partners to unite and reach out to 18 million fewer people who require interventions against Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in Africa.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti gave the charge in a message to commemorate the 2024 World NTD Day with the theme: Unite. Act. Eliminate, on 30th January 2024.

She said the World NTD Day, is an event designed to consider the severe effects these diseases have on the well-being and livelihoods of billions around the globe.

Calling on all 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.

First, I, and my fellow leaders across Africa and the world, ask that we unite to tackle these devastating diseases, that affect the most vulnerable of our communities. The presence of NTDs is a constant reminder of the inequalities in our world today. Second, I am asking you, as individuals and as communities, to act, to spread awareness, to advocate with those in power, and to help 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. 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.

The Regional Director also applauds the Progress made against NTDs through the Expanded Special Project for Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ESPEN) and support from partners and governments on NTD awareness campaigns that led to better diagnosis and treatment for people living with the diseases, as well as preventing and controlling the vectors that carry NTDs – the teste flies, snails, worms and the animal reservoirs, Thereby providing safe water supplies and sanitation to prevent NTDs, and improving the overall quality of life of people in the continent.

However, even with all this progress, Africa bears 40% of the global burden of NTD cases. We need to overcome the persistent challenges that are slowing progress in eliminating these diseases. Globally, we have clear roadmaps towards ending NTDS AND Ending the neglect to attain the Sustainable Development Goals: a road map for neglected tropical diseases 2021-2030. To ensure that we put this road map into our context in Africa, the WHO Regional Office for Africa has guided countries through the WHO Regional NTD Road Map, helping affected countries to put together their own National NTD Masterplans. ESPEN publishes specific guidance and continues to provide dedicated help to countries to develop and use these plans. We must maintain the momentum of the progress made since the launch of the regional NTD roadmap in 2015.

The Kigali Declaration, last year, called for high-level commitment from governments and communities to pull together resources and action, putting individuals, communities, and countries at the center of the NTD response.

we need to act, to ensure that high-level political commitment is translated into transformative action in the NTD space. We need to unite, by building new partnerships to ensure enough and sustainable funding to continue the momentum of the progress already made against these diseases. And we need to provide countries with the resources they require to eliminate these ancient diseases.

The World NTDs celebrated every 30th January echoed WHO’s unwavering commitment to supporting countries in commendable efforts to eliminate NTDs, once and for all.

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