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Elimination of Onchocerciasis is feasible – Team

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The elimination of onchocerciasis is feasible and achievable, a review of the Africa Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) has revealed.

Evidence of successful elimination in some endemic areas has been documented in countries such Mali, Senegal and Nigeria.

Dr. Laurent Yameogo, Coordinator of Office of the Programme Director of APOC, in an interview with Ghana News Agency in Accra on Thursday after an APOC advisory meeting on the future of Onchocerciasis in Africa.

“We have further proof of the elimination of the disease in Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania even though we have not done total country assessment,” he said.

Onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness, is an eye and skin disease caused by a worm (filaria) known scientifically as Onchocerca volvulus. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of a black fly (simulium species).

According to the World Health Organisation, in some West African communities, about 50 per cent of men over the age of 40 years have been blinded by the disease.

Dr Yameogo indicated that to effectively eliminate the disease, there was the need for more commitment from afflicted countries and donors adding that it was pertinent for countries to contribute a minimum of 25 per cent of the budget needed while donors threw in the remaining 75 per cent needed to implement the programme within countries.

It is expected that by three to five years of the programme countries would have taken full responsibility of funding of the programme.

Dr. Yameogo explained that the idea is actually to encourage afflicted communities to own the programme.

He said: “When we empower the communities they would not feel it has been imposed on them. When we give them power to decide and design their own way of the intervention they would ensure that the strategy is well implemented and successful.”

He commended donors for supporting the programme but added that they needed to extend their support a little longer after the elimination stage which ends in 2015.

This, Dr Yameogo said, called for a situation analysis to see what was needed to be done to achieve the objectives of the elimination stage.

It is for this reason that members of the APOC advisory board are meeting to discuss the leadership of APOC.

The meeting is expected to come up with recommendations about five areas, Dr Sam Adjei, former Deputy Director of Ghana Health Service, who chairs the review team, told GNA.

The areas are the future activities that APOC should support; organizational restructuring of APOC; funding arrangement and linkages with countries with oncho; monitoring and evaluation as well as the role of APOC in the elimination of onchocerciasis; and the extension of its mandate beyond 2015.

The meeting is a follow-up to the one held in July last year to conduct a mid-term review evaluation of APOC in addition to a report it tabled at the 16th Joint Action Forum.

The JAF meeting held in Abuja, Nigeria, in 2010, was attended by Health ministers of afflicted countries.

According to Dr Adjei, some of the recommendations of that meeting included the transformation of the control programme beyond 2015, focus on the elimination and establishment of a special advisory team to advise on the future of APOC, co-implementation (combining Onchocerciasis with other disease for effective implementation) and a strategy for elimination.

Source: GNA

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