Johannesburg, Africa - The World Health Organization is stepping up efforts to accelerate the elimination of neglected tropical diseases (NTD) in the African Region. Health experts, donors, development partners and affected countries have reached a consensus on the main components of the framework for establishing a new NTD entity. This entity will support and guide affected countries in the African region to accelerate the implementation of actions required to eliminate NTDs by 2020.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti in her opening remarks underscored the need for a strong entity that will provide high quality technical support, and strengthen capacity of Member States to eliminate NTDs. Dr Moeti said, “The new NTD entity needs to be cost efficient, cross-cutting with other NTD interventions and with a stronger link with stakeholders and actors in order to achieve the set targets in 2020.”
The WHO African Region faces a huge burden of neglected tropical diseases which affects millions of people who are impoverished. The region carries half of the global burden of NTDs. The move to establish a new entity arises from the current global and regional commitment from donors, pharmaceutical companies, countries and other partners to accelerate the elimination of NTDs.
The new NTD entity will also facilitate the smooth transition of technical support to affected countries as the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) closes on 31 December, 2015. APOC was established in 1995 to tackle river blindness. Over the past 20 years, the work of APOC has made commendable progress in tackling river blindness (Onchocerciasis) in most affected communities. The new entity focuses on the five diseases (elephantiasis, river blindness, trachoma, bilharzia and intestinal worms) that can be treated with mass drug administration. Its operations will build on the experience gained in recent years in tackling NTDs.
In her concluding comments, Dr Moeti thanked APOC for its contribution to tackling river blindness and expressed profound gratitude to Member States, donors, communities, non-governmental development organizations and the many WHO staff that contributed significantly to this achievement. The Regional Director promised to “follow up the NTD agenda and ensure that the new entity achieves the expected results by 2020.”