The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday urged African governments to come up with targeted interventions aimed at reducing the burden of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in the continent.
Joyce Onsongo, the disease prevention and control officer at the WHO Kenya Office, said that there is a need to integrate key interventions aimed at containing these diseases including enhanced access to clean water and sanitation.
“We need to complement interventions such as behavior change and vector control and how they relate to the environment as a way to manage the diseases,” Onsongo said at a summit on ending NTDs underway in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.
Onsongo observed that eradication of NTDs does not require medicines alone but also close collaboration of personnel working in public health and water sectors.
The official revealed that the WHO has provided medicine worth 2 billion shillings (about 17.14 million U.S. dollars) from the global pharmaceutical firms to help Kenya treat patients who are diagnosed with NTDs free of charge.
She said that the global health organization is helping Kenya in monitoring the NTDs situation in the country by conducting yearly surveys to evaluate the level of intervention.
Onsongo noted that the recently launched “Ending NTDs: together towards 2030” roadmap will lead to all countries eliminating one if not all NTDs.
Susan Mochache, the principal secretary in the Ministry of Health, said NTDs are endemic across Kenya but primarily affect the rural communities where there is low access to sanitation and clean water, and limited or no access to quality and affordable health services.
Mochache said that Kenya is committed to ensuring that NTDS, just like other infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases and epidemics, are eliminated.
She noted that Kenya’s universal health coverage insurance covers case management of NTDs mediated manifestations of chronic disease.
Mochache revealed that approximately 25 million Kenyans are at risk of one NTD and the problem also affects water and sanitation, maternal and child health, education, infrastructure, economic opportunity and gender equality.
She said that NTDs lead to low school attendance and absenteeism among the school-going children thus negatively affecting their learning and education outcomes.
According to the Kenyan official, besides developing NTD national plan, Kenya was certified free of guinea worm and has achieved interruption of transmission for African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) and onchocerciasis (river blindness).
Mochache said Kenya has also scaled up the mapping of Bilharzia and intestinal worms so as to allocate sufficient resources, pledging that Kenya is firmly committed to the WHO’s new roadmap for neglected tropical diseases 2021-2030.
The three-day summit that has been organized by End Fund, a private charitable foundation, is being attended by more than 250 delegates that include senior government officials, public health experts, and representatives from the WHO and Africa CDC.