GHS to undertake mass drug administration for NTDs

The Ghana Health Service’s (GHS) Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Programme will undertake a two-week nationwide Mass Drug Administration (MDA) Programme in 126 districts endemic for elephantiasis and Onchoceriasis (river blindness), starting Monday July 29, 2019.

Dr Patrick Kuma Aboagye, the Acting Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, who announced this at a press conference on NTDs in Accra on Friday, gave the breakdown of the districts as: 15 for elephantiasis, 120 for river blindness and nine co-endemic districts; that is those with a combination of the two diseases.

He said NTDs involves a group of 20 infectious and parasitic diseases found in every improvised parts of the world, which promotes a cycle of poverty because they are severely debilitating, disabling and concentrated in remote rural areas and urban slums.

Dr Aboagye said in Ghana, there are 14 NTDs, notable among them being elephantiasis, river blindness, Blinding Trachoma, bilharzia, soil transmitted helminthiasis (round worm), Buruli ulcer, Yaws, Leprosy, Leishmaniasis and Sleeping Sickness.

He said the GHS through years of collaborative efforts with partners, has been able to control and eliminate NTDs such as Trachoma in 2018, and broken the transmission of elephantiasis in 38 out of the 98 endemic districts, remaining 15 hot sports.

The NTD programme, Dr Aboagye said, has already started vigorous activities in order to ensure that no district is left behind.

He said an assessment of the river blindness situation in the country in 2018 revealed that more districts would have to receive MDA, and thus increasing the number of endemic districts slated for Onchoceriasis under the programme from 85 to 120.

“What it means is that all hands must be on deck to respond to the upscaling of Onchoceriasis endemicity,” calling for intensified collaboration with agencies and stakeholders to be facilitated by the GHS to eliminate NTDs.

The Acting Director-General acknowledged the various roles played by all partners who have assisted the programme from its onset till now, citing the media, and the thousands of volunteers and health workers who annually or biannually distribute NTD medicines to millions of persons living in endemic communities, and assist in social mobilization, and also all others who have indicated their willingness to collaborate with the Country in its move towards the elimination of NTDs.

Dr Aboagye said moving forward, the programme must intensify collaboration with all stakeholders so that uptake of MDA could be enhanced, improve on social mobilization by exploring all relevant avenues, to ensure an early start in terms of education and impact in all endemic districts.

Dr Benjamin Marfo, the Programme Manager for Neglected Tropical Diseases, GHS, said Ghana has adopted a three-prong strategy, involving MDA in all endemic districts, undertaking clinical management of all cases of morbidity, and the provision of health education, for the elimination of NTDs such as elephantiasis, river blindness, bilharzia and intestinal worm infestation.

He said river blindness is transmitted by the vector called “blackfly,” which breeds in fast flowing rivers and is the second leading cause of avoidable blindness, while elephantiasis is again transmitted by the same female anopheles mosquito that transmits malaria.

Dr Marfo advised persons living in endemic communities to wear protective clothing to prevent these bites and urged them to adhere to treatment guidelines.

Dr Joyce Aryee, who is currently Ghana’s NTD Ambassador, called on all for massive support from all partners including community and religious leaders, the media, volunteers and health workers in ensuring a smooth MDA implementation, saying country could no longer look on while a large number of its population suffer from these preventable illnesses.

Source: GNA

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