Awareness day set aside for neglected tropical diseases

By George Kebaso
Monday, February 10th, 2020
Thoko Elphick-Pooley, Director Uniting to Combat NTDs. Photo/COURTESY

George Kebaso @Morarak

Amid calls to give prominence towards elimination of Global Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), January 30, has been set aside as the awareness day for the conditions that threaten the lives of more than 1.5 million people globally, including 500 million children.

Stakeholders are optimistic the day, celebrated for the first time in 2020, will provide an appropriate platform towards the push to eliminate 10 NTDs that have continued to devastate communities in poor countries.

Thoko Elphick-Pooley, Director of Uniting to Combat NTDs, said 2020 will be a monumental year to set the global agenda and power the progress against neglected tropical diseases ahead of the June Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda and the global summit on malaria and NTDs. 

“I hope by the end of this year, we can truly say we have secured the necessary political will and leadership to ensure these diseases can no longer be neglected.

We have a real opportunity for action and success. We call on partners to join our global movement to end NTDs,” she said.

She added the summit would offer leaders opportunity to renew the push to eradicate diseases affecting one in every four Kenyans.

“Across health and development, world awareness days offer an annual opportunity to mobilise greater attention, action and investment on priority issues, particularly in the countries and communities most directly affected,” she added.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is expected to launch new NTDs goals shortly to guide progress until 2030.

The health agency currently classifies 20 diseases as neglected tropical diseases including: elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis); river blindness (onchocerciasis); bilharzia (schistosomiasis); intestinal worms (soil-transmitted helminths); trachoma; chagas disease; guinea worm disease; sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis); leprosy and Kala-azar (visceral leishmaniasis).

Rwandese Health Minister, Dr Diane Gashumba said the Kigali Summit on Malaria and NTDs will be the first formal gathering to bring united global attention and calls-to-action to ending these preventable yet often deadly diseases that have plagued humans for thousands of years.

“It is unacceptable that billions of people around the world continue to suffer and, too often, die from malaria and neglected tropical diseases. These diseases are preventable, treatable and curable.

The incredible progress against malaria and neglected tropical diseases is proof of what can be done with the resources at one’s disposal, relevant policies, and a great deal of commitment.

We can – and must – do more to ensure our youth, our communities and our countries aren’t held back by these diseases of poverty and inequality,” she said.