Dr Isaac Osei, Medical Science Officer of the African Research Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases has appealed to duty bearers to demonstrate total commitment towards the control, elimination and eradication of diseases tagged as NTDs.
He called for prioritisation and injection of financial resources to activate all channels including; research for new drugs, diagnostic tools that would lead to stemming NTDs and step up health education and surveillance.
Speaking to the Ghana News Agency in an interview, Dr Osei, said two years away from the global target, only trachoma and guinea worm were tentatively pencilled to be eradicated.
African leaders have reinforced their standing in relation to eradicating the disease including; increased funding and tracking in line with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) roadmap dubbed the London Declaration of NTDs, which among others is prioritising a sustained and expanded measures to detect, prevent and control the disease by 2020.
WHO has classified over 20 as NTDs including: Chagas, Schistosomiasis, Ascariasis, Trachoma, Dengue fever, Leprosy, Sleeping sickness, Leishmaniasis, Lymphatic filariasis Onchocerciasis (River blindness), Yaws, Burulu ulcer, Rabies, Tapeworm, Dracunculiasis and Hookworm with rabies and snake bites being the latest additions.
Dr Osei said the disease is found in all regions of the country with 10 out of the 20 NTDs being endemic in rural and poor areas in the country.
He said Ghana is awaiting WHO confirmation to announce the elimination of Trachoma, huge progress on eliminating guinea worm as well as buruli ulcer while lots of progress is being achieved in Africa with Togo and Egypt eliminating lymphatic filariasis.
The Medical Science Officer said many interventions were being carried out at the national, regional and district levels on preventive therapies, case studies and mass drug administration, which he said “Needed financial resources to succeed while tested political commitment was needed to detect, prevent and control the disease.”
Dr Osei was not happy that major researches on NTDs were funded by foreign sources, which he believes was an affront to the fight against the disease, fearing multinational pharmaceutical companies could take undue advantage of the system.
“Internal financial mobilisation is needed to be solicited and prioritised to drive the elimination policy and agenda.”
According to the NTD Scorecard of a Global Health Strategies release copied to the Ghana News Agency, Ghana showed major progress ranking sixth out of 47 countries in the index and working assiduously with the WHO to confirm that it had eliminated trachoma as a public health problem, which would make it the sixth country to officially reach elimination.
It said Ghana had kept steady, high preventive therapy coverage rate for lymphatic filariasis and ochocerciasis on the past years. In 2016, its coverage rate for lymphatic filariasis was 74 per cent, while ochocerciasis was 85 per cent, the fourth highest rate of coverage in Africa.
By adding NTDs to the scorecards African leaders have placed these diseases alongside malaria and maternal and child health as a top health priority for the continent, and are making a public commitment to hold themselves accountable for progress. The African leaders’ malaria alliance (ALMA) neglected tropical diseases.
NTDs are a group of diseases affecting 1.5 billion of world’s poorest and most marginalised people, including 650 million people across Africa. They sicken, disable and disfigure-keeping children out of school, parents out of work and communities in endless cycles of poverty.
However, thanks to the efforts of a global public-private coalition, more people than ever before are being treated for NTDs, and the number of people at risk of infection dropped by more than 400 million in the last five years.