By Sharon Atieno

Africa has made tremendous progress in elimination of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), however, collaboration is crucial to reach the last mile.

“Diseases respect no borders, of course – and our approach to NTD control and elimination must take that into account. As we move closer to the ‘last mile’, cross-border issues represent populations that, unless they too benefit from increased efforts, may put our successes at risk,” said Dr. Mwele Malecela, the Director, Department of Control of NTDs ,World Health Organization, giving her keynote speech at the 1st International Conference on NTDs in Africa held in Nairobi, Kenya.

“I know that efforts are already being made to reach and address these populations – but our successes  need to be on a regional and international level; we may have eliminated a disease in our own country, but if our neighbours on all sides remain endemic then, is our success real?”

Dr. Malecela at the 1st International Conference on NTDs in Africa

She added that collaboration was vital not only in synchronizing mass drug administration to avoid duplication or missing communities, but also in sharing laboratory capacity and expertise, resources and technical capacity.

Taking into account the new Neglected Tropical Diseases Roadmap for 2021-2030, Dr. Malecela said: “The success of our new Roadmap will depend on teams and partnerships and cross-country collaboration.”

NTDs affect more than 1 billion people globally and WHO estimates that Africa carries nearly 40 percent of the global burden of NTDs. A total of 44 African nations have widespread occurrence of at least one percent and 42 countries at least two percent.

The theme of this inaugural international conference on NTDs in Africa is dubbed, cross-border partnership towards achieving control and elimination of neglected tropical diseases.

The three-day conference running from 4th-6th December, 2019, hosted in conjunction with the 13th Kenya’s Ministry of Health and Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)’s annual NTD Conference brought together experts in the field of neglected tropical diseases from different African countries.