Ghana joined the world to celebrate the second World Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Day, with a call on the government to increase funding and allocate more resources to eliminate of NTDs.
This has become necessary as efforts and initiatives to eliminate the disease had solely depended on foreign aid.
At a ceremony held in Accra to observe the day, Dr Patrick Kuma- Aboagye, Director General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) said NTDs caused significant morbidity and mortality globally.
Neglected Tropical Diseases are a group of an ancient disease that threatens about 1.7 billion people living in the poorest and most marginalised communities in the world.
These diseases cause blindness, disable or disfigure people and also affect the personal development of infected people.
Presently, in Ghana, 14 NTDs, including trachoma, intestinal worms, river blindness, bilharzia, elephantiasis, sleeping sickness, Buruli ulcer, leprosy, yaws, are being managed by respective Programmes under the Ghana Health Service (GHS).
Dr Kuma-Aboagye said and more than one billion people, representing one-seventh of the world’s population, suffered from one or more NTDs.
“In Ghana, every district is endemic with at least two NTDs. Most of these diseases do not kill but produce debilitating effects, including severe disfigurement, disability, and blindness on patients,” he said.
He said the diseases frequently overlapped geographically due to their strong association with poverty, thus, people were often affected by more than one disease.
“Preventing and controlling NTDs is central to ending extreme poverty and interventions currently include preventive chemotherapy, case management health education, and awareness creation,” he said.
The Director-General said apart from NTDs condemning affected people to live long years with disability and stigma, they also kept children out of school, adults out of work; burdened households with considerable costs to seek health care, trapped communities in endless cycles of poverty and cost developing economies billions of dollars every year.
He called for inter-sectoral collaboration to maximize resources and enhance the efficiency of NTDs elimination interventions.
He said for better integration of NTDs activities into the healthcare system, a primary health care approach was essential while maintaining close interaction between programmes to bring multiple health benefits to people in need.
Dr Neema Rusibamayila Kimambo, Acting World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative For Ghana said treating affected populations and populations at risk of NTDs was a key strategy for achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (GDG) three.
She said with its efforts to leave no one behind, the WHO in its 13th General Program of Work was aiming at reaching more than 1 billion people with essential curative and preventive packages for all communicable diseases including the NTDs.
She lauded Ghana for making progress in the control and elimination of the diseases in spite of the limited resources.
The World NTDs day is celebrated on January 30th every year across the globe to create awareness about NTDs and mobilize greater attention, action, and investments on priority issues in countries that are directly affected.
This year’s celebration was on the theme: “Face NTDs and End the Neglect”.