WHO Steps Up Effort to Help End Diseases in Africa
World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched global consultations for a new Roadmap on how to eliminate Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). The roadmap would help achieve universal health coverage by 2030, address health emergencies and promote healthier populations.
Many NTDs are debilitating and reduce the quality of life of and dehumanize the infected, yet most are preventable and treatable. It has also been noticed that NTDs affect 1.6 billion poor people worldwide but most of those people live in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In fact, reliable sources have the information that Africa accounts for more than 50% of the global burden of NTDs. South East Asia has the second highest burden of NTDs - the region accounts for 74% of reported cases of leprosy globally.
Those who suffer mostly are the people who live in communities without access to clean water, basic sanitation and primary health care. Simply put, NTDs are diseases of inequity. Of that number earlier stated, women and children bear the brunt of NTDs the most. These diseases have negative impacts on school attendance, reproductive health and economic activities. Leprosy, intestinal worms and trachoma highlight the devastations caused by NTDs and show why it is imperative to address them to improve people's economic wellbeing and human dignity.
It is also believed that hookworm, roundworm, whipworm, and schistosomiasis infect more than 25% of the world's population. The demographic mostly infected by these worms are school-age children.
It is not hard to imagine that in communities with open defecation, playgrounds become breeding grounds for all sorts of infections. Hookworms which are passed in stool lurk around, penetrate the skin and infect children. Therefore, a favorite pastime of children becomes a dangerous gateway to lifetime of misery, discomfort and lost productivity. Mass drugs administration delivered once a year clears intestinal worms.
WHO emphasizes that when primary health care is available in the remotest communities, health workers can provide basic health education and healthcare to the people. Universal Health coverage should be backed by increased risk communication to communities, to engender behavior change. For example, educating communities on the negative consequences of open defecation must be followed with provision of clean water.
Since governments alone are not able to provide the required solutions to reduce the burden of NTDs. Philanthropists, pharmaceutical companies, foundations, civil society organisations and social entrepreneurs must join this fight.
The WHO roadmap is an open call for inputs. All stakeholders must come on board and ensure that these preventable and treatable diseases that affect the poorest billion in the world are eliminated once and for all.