The Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) Programme of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has called for a sustained financing and cross-sectoral approaches to fight the menace in the country.
The lack of resources, the Programme notes, has become a significant barrier to the control, elimination, and eradication of NTDs in the country.
What are NTDs?
The term NTDs is used to describe a group of 20 communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical countries and affect more than one billion people globally, according to the statistics by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The 20 NTDs are: Buruli ulcer; Chagas disease; dengue and chikungunya; dracunculiasis; echinococcosis; foodborne trematodiases; human African trypanosomiasis; leishmaniasis; leprosy; lymphatic filariasis; mycetoma, chromoblastomycosis and other deep mycoses; onchocerciasis; rabies; scabies and other ectoparasitoses; schistosomiasis; soil-transmitted helminthiases; snakebite envenoming; taeniasis/cysticercosis; trachoma; and yaws.
Of the 20 NTDs identified by the WHO, 14 are found in Ghana, prominent among them being Trachoma; Buruli ulcer; Yaws; Leprosy; Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT or sleeping sickness); Leishmaniases; Lymphatic filariasis; Onchocerciasis (river blindness); Schistosomiasis, and Soil-transmitted helminthiases.
NTDs mainly affect populations living in poverty and in close contact with infectious vectors— viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi and toxins.
The disease cause devastating health, social and economic consequences to those affected by it.
Explaining why the Programme is calling for a sustained financing and investment on NTDs, the Deputy Programme Manager, Dr Joseph Kwadwo Larbi Opare, said ending NTDs will make our health systems more resilient and our world a more equitable and safer place.
For him, by bringing renewed attention to NTDs, building political will and mobilising resources, and putting individuals and communities at the centre of the response, “we can collectively generate the attention and resources needed to deliver against the targets outlined in the WHO 2030 NTD road map and SDG3.”
“That is why, together and united, we will make the case for investment, and push for concerted action and financing on World NTD Day 2023,” Dr Opare noted.
He explained that investing in NTD programmes would create a ripple effect in society, adding that “it leads to better education, health, and employment outcomes, and transforms lives and communities.”
In addition, he observed, investing in NTD programmes would equally help to reduce gender inequity, stigma, and preventable mortality and morbidity, pointing out that “the case for investment is clear.”
He further observed that addressing NTDs requires cross-sectoral approaches that span from bringing medicines to the ‘end of the road’ - thus making universal health coverage a reality, relieving the associated mental health burden, and tackling fundamental human rights issues.
Dr Opare said investing in NTDs is a global health and development success story, noting that so far, 46 countries including Ghana have eliminated an NTD, showing that progress is possible towards elimination and eradication of the disease.
Currently, he noted, every district in Ghana has at least two of the NTDs, calling also for a sustained awareness on the disease in order to reduce its impact on people, saying “the disease keep children out of school and parents out of work.”
In addition, he explained, NTDs are endemic in poor communities and promotes poverty and intense stigma.
Dr Opare called on all stakeholders, particularly duty bearers to join the fight in their various capacities to help the country to become free from NTDs.
“Everyone has a key role to play,” he noted, saying “This year, we invite you to ask our leaders to act now, act together and invest in neglected tropical diseases.”
World NTDs Day
This year’s World NTD day, which falls today, January 30, 2023, is on the theme “Act now. Act together. Invest in neglected tropical diseases.”
The day is celebrated to raise awareness on the need to address issues on Neglected Tropical Diseases.