Ghana Health Service urges government to back NTDs fight with investments
Dr. Patrick Kuma Aboagye, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), has appealed to the government and global leaders to invest heavily in fighting Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).
NTDs are viral, bacterial and parasitical diseases often common in tropical areas where people do not have access to clean water or safe ways to dispose of human waste.
The diseases include elephantiasis, trachoma, bilharzia, yaws, leprosy, sleeping sickness, river blindness, and Buruli ulcer.
“Our leaders have the responsibility to end the neglect of poverty related diseases like NTDs and put financial resources behind their works.
“I definitely look forward to the day where we no longer have a neglected disease, a neglected population in Ghana, and the whole world as a whole,” he said.
Dr. Aboagye made the call at the launch of the “2022 World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day” Celebration in Accra on the theme: “Achieving Health Equity to End the Neglect of Poverty Related Diseases.”
NTDs, he said, were the fourth most devastating group of communicable diseases.
He, however, expressed optimism that the launch drew further attention to the NTDs programme and created more opportunities to mobilise greater investments in its fight.
Dr. Hafez Adams, Chairman of the Intra-Country Coordination Committee of the NTDs Programme, said NTDs, caused morbidity and mortality nationwide and more than one third of the world’s population suffered one or more of it.
The NTDs caused disfigurement, disability and blindness, he said, adding, patients of the diseases were associated with poverty, subjected to stigmatisation, and almost ignored by global funding agencies.
To prevent and control them, Dr. Adams reiterated the need for resources to be invested in its fight, adding that it would also help to eradicate poverty globally.
Dr. Joyce Aryee, the Ambassador of the NTD Programme, said many NTDs would be controlled and eliminated if a strong national culture of promoting good sanitation was created.
“It doesn’t come as a surprise when in some parts of the world NTDs are on the rise because of our poor sanitation system. Why should some diseases be neglected and others given all relevance? The reality of how devastating this disease is cannot be overemphasised and a collective approach led by the government is what can totally control NTDs,” she said.
To have 16 regions with at least two endemic NTDs in every one of its districts, she said, was “not acceptable” and called on everyone to be an advocate and speak to maintaining good hygiene and sanitation in homes, workplaces and communities.
Dr. Elizabeth Juma, a Medical Officer with the World Health Organization (WHO), Ghana Office, said there was the need for a comprehensive universal access and care for everyone affected with NTDs even during the COVID-19 period.
Although NTDs globally affected more than 1.7 billion people, mainly the poor and marginalised, she said, they historically had not received as much attention as some other infectious diseases.
Dr. Juma said WHO had released guidelines for the control and elimination of human Schistosomiasis that provided evidence-based recommendations to support endemic countries like Ghana in morbidity control and elimination of the disease as a public health problem and to move towards interruption of transmission.
Equitable access to services, strong and efficient health system, improved access to affordable medicines of assured quality and community ownership, she said, were some of the ways to control NTDs.
Moreover, involvement of other sectors such as finance, education, agriculture, water supply and environment in a strong partnership were important in addressing cross-cutting issues in the control of NTDs, she added.