By Mary Hearty

Intensifying the use of alternative strategies such as vector control, health education, improved disease diagnosis and management could help eliminate Leishmaniasis, a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD), as a public health problem.

Sheila Shawa-Musonda, Program Officer, AU said during the delivery of a keynote speech at the 2nd Leishmaniasis East Africa Platform (LEAP) Scientific Conference hosted in Nairobi, Kenya.

She added that focusing on prevention will lead to a decrease in transmission and hence the need for intervention plans on all aspects of control and not stand alone interventions.

Musonda noted that the path aimed at controlling and eliminating NTDs in Africa constitutes a great milestone as the burden of these diseases still remains high in the continent.

She also stated that the Agenda 2063 has brought about the revitalization of frameworks to ensure that objectives of the healthy and malnourished citizens favour the Africa Health Strategy.

The Africa Health is an overarching document that provides strategic guidance for member states in the implementation of priority approaches to reduce morbidity and end preventable mortality from all diseases including Leishmaniasis.

Furthermore, the AU’s program officer said there is need for intensive political advocacy at the regional and national level for the provision of sustainable financing towards development on new technologies in treatments and diagnosis of Leishmaniasis.

At the moment, the African Union and stakeholders are advocating for increased funding towards research and development in this sector. The commission is also urging member states to create an enabling environment for research and development among others

The Conference was planned to serve as a platform where  the results of AfriKADIA consortium projects funded by the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCCTP) could be presented.

The project is part of the EDCCTP program which is supported by the European Union under horizon 2020. AfriKADIA is a consortium of 10 organizations working to find improved treatments and diagnostic tools for visceral Leshmaniasis (VL) in Eastern Africa.

These organizations include three universities, and one research institution from East Africa, four European research institutions and two non-profit product development partnerships specializing in research and development for neglected tropical diseases.

The scientific organizing committee for this conference comprised of eminent professors, scientists, researchers from local, regional and global institutions. The scientific agenda was rich in 21 abstracts, 11 posters, and the conference covered all forms of Leishmaniasis including VL and HIV co-infection.

The African countries which participated in the conference include Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, DRC, Ghana, Morocco, Tunisia, among others.