Ghana is poised to sustain its control measures and eventual eradicate Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) by 2030.
Ghana on Thursday joined other countries globally to commemorate the World Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) Day, on the theme: “Beat NTDs: For Good: For All”, and to launch its maiden national campaign for total eradication.
Dr Badu Sarkodie, the Director of Public Health, Ghana Health Service (GHS), who represented the Minister of Health and the Director-General of the GHS said this would be achieved through sustained advocacy and inter-sectoral collaboration among other things and called for stakeholder partnership in resource mobilizing and financial support for its elimination
He noted that the purpose of improved advocacy and communication cannot be underestimated, since it would leverage support to engage policymakers and Partners and create common platforms for dialogue.
Dr Sarkodie therefore acknowledged the launch and commemoration of the annual NTD Day as a step in the right direction that seeks to contribute and maximize efforts in achieving the Agenda 2030 of the Sustainable Development Goals, the targets of the Universal health Coverage and the WHO’s ambition to eliminate NTDs by 2030.
He said NTDs involved a group of infectious diseases that were commonly found in poor and neglected communities, and affecting more than one billion people globally, representing one-seventh of the world’s population.
According to him, these diseases cause severe disability including blindness and disfigurement, and even deaths, leaving its devastating and lifelong impacts of cycle poverty on individuals, families and even entire communities.
The prevention and control of NTDs, was central to ending extreme poverty in the next two decades, citing some of the most prevalent NTDs as Lymphatic Filariasis-Elephantiasis, Trachoma, Schistosomiasis-Bilharzia, Onchocerciasis- River Blindness, and Soil-transmitted Helminths- Worms, he said.
He said the Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Control Programme, was working on five of these diseases targeted through a highly effective integrated community and school treatment approach, using drugs that have been proven safe and effective and which could be delivered by trained non-health personnel.
The approach known as Mass Drug Administration (MDA), provided a single dose medication to all eligible individuals once or twice a year, adding that implemented over three to seven years, MDA could significantly control these high burden NTDs and in some cases elimination could be achieved, he said.
Dr Sarkodie said the Ministry of Health and GHS through the National NTD Programme, and its Development partners, have been working tirelessly to make great gains in the elimination of these diseases.
Mr Ishmael Ashitey, the Greater Accra Regional Minister acknowledged that NTDs cost developing economies billions of dollars every year, and that effective control and elimination could be achieved through a combination and delivery of selected public health approaches guided by the local epidemiology and the availability of appropriate measures to detect, prevent and control diseases.
He said the institution of the Day, would bring NTDs and the plight of persons living with NTDs to the limelight leading to intensive solutions towards its elimination globally.
He gave some highlights of the new coronavirus infection which was currently spreading like wildfire from China through many countries around the world, and called for intensified public education without delay, to create more awareness, and expand information among Public health officials, Medical experts and scientists working in collaboration to learn more.
He said giving the current spread of this virus, the pace and complexity of international travels, the number of cases and deaths were likely to rise, and therefore appealed to all health professionals to be ‘on top of their game’ to keep all citizens safe.
Dr Sally-Ann Ohene, representing the WHO, commended Ghana for the important strides made in the control and elimination of NTDs such as Guinea worm and Trachoma despite the limited resources, saying NTDs have received very little attention globally although their devastating impact contribute to school absenteeism, keeping adults out of work and putting communities in endless cycle of poverty.
She said treating risk populations of NTDs had been the main approach for achieving the SDG 3 in the UHC context and within the principle of “leaving no one behind”, hence the WHO in its 13th General Programme of Work aimed at reaching more than one billion people with essential curative and preventive packages.
She recommended that for an effective control and elimination of NTDs, a strong and more efficient health system, improved access to essential medicines of assured quality at affordable prices, a well-trained and motivated work force particularly for community-based interventions were critical.
Dr Joyce Aryee, National NTD Ambassador called for the improvement upon the existing tools for control to ensure total elimination by 2030.