The Ghana Health Service in partnership with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on Monday organised a day’s seminar for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) to promote good health among the people.
It sought to eliminate NTD in the country and contribute to poverty alleviation and national development.
The seminar was under the Theme: “Protecting Neglected Populations from Diseases through Mass Drug Administration while contributing to the Achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)”.
Ms. Ellen Mensah, Head of School Health Programme, GHS, said NTDs were infectious diseases commonly found in poor communities with poor sanitation.
Some common NTDs in the country are Lymphatic Filariasis (Elephantiasis), Onchocerciasis (River Blindness),Schistomiasis (Bilharzia), Soil-Transmitted Helninths ( Worms) and Trachoma.
Ms. Mensah said there was the need to know the status of NTDs in the country to serve as good advocates for the programme and help solicit support for its implementation since it affected children, the vulnerable and inflicted psychological and physical pain which might lead to severe disabilities.
She urged all and sundry to serve as advocates for the programme and help in the education to contribute to improving health through better social mobilisation for mass drug administration.
Dr. Nana Kwadwo Biritwum, Programmes Manager, NTDs Control, said NTDs control programme combined five NTDs which could be prevented through mass drug administration to affected people.
He said about 120 million people were estimated to be affected in about 80 countries with lymphatic filariasis with infection transmitted by the mosquito and puts about 1.3 million people at risk globally.
Dr. Biritwum said in Ghana about 10 million of the people were at risk and over 5,000 individuals had been registered under the programme.
He said protection against the disease could be done by sleeping under insecticide treated mosquito nets and MDGs medicines, Vermectin and Albendazole.
Dr. Biritwum explained that Onchocerciasis was caused by a worm called Onchocerca Volvulus and transmitted from person to person through a bite of the black fly.
“Available statistics indicates that about three million individuals are at risk of Onchocerciasis from about 3,000 communities”, he added.
He explained that schistosomiasis was caused by the fluke worm called schistosoma and could affect either the bladder or the intestines, and about seven million school-going children were at risk.
“Intestinal worms caused the disease by taking food and water contaminated with their eggs. Protection is by ensuring personal and environmental hygiene as well as taking Albendazole or Mebendazole”, he added.
Dr. Biritwum said trachoma was an eye infection caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis and spread by direct contact with the eye, nose and throat secretions from affected persons.
He said untreated trachoma might lead to blindness and common in rural areas with poor water supply and insanitary conditions.
About 26 districts in Upper West and Northern Regions are known to have trachoma.
Dr. Biritwum urged all and sundry to adhere to the protective measures of these diseases since the strength of a nation depended on the health of the people.
Ms. Ruby Kissiedu, Policy Analyst, Integrated Social Development Centre, advocated for effective collaboration among NGOs to work in improving the health sector.