By Gift Briton

Togo has received an excellent award after becoming the first country worldwide to eliminate four Neglected Tropical Diseases(NTDs) over the last decade.

Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbé received the trophy and certificate during the 72nd session of the World Health Organization(WHO) regional committee for Africa happening in Lome, Togo.

The diseases eliminated include Dracunculiasis (Guinea worm disease), Elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis), Human African Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) and Trachoma.

Speaking during the event, President Gnassingbé appreciated WHO for acknowledging Togo’s achievement in the fight against NTDs, noting that, “this progress was achieved by dedication and commitment of all national stakeholders as well as the support and concerns of our partners.”

President Faure Gnassingbé receives a certificate and trophy for eliminating four NTDS

He added that health is a priority that the country has placed at the heart of its development policies. Through its 2025-2030 roadmap, the country aspires to guarantee coverage and access to basic health services for all its citizens.

To eliminate these diseases, Togo adopted a two-pronged approach that focused on interrupting transmission and preventing occurrence of new infections as well as treating or managing diseases, their associated morbidity, and their complications, to alleviate suffering.

Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbé (left), Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General (middle) Moustafa Mijiyawa, Togo’s minister of health (right) with the award and certificate

President Gnassingbé also appreciated WHO for partnering with African countries to support health systems and coordinating emergency responses adding that the partnership guides countries towards sustainable and sound solutions.

According to WHO, there has also been substantial progress in the fight against NTDs globally with forty-six countries having eliminated at least one NTD and between 2015 and 2019, more than one billion people were treated every year for one or more NTDs.

Likewise, in the period 2010 to 2020, the number of people requiring an NTD intervention was reduced by 600 million and cases of African Trypanosomiasis have fallen by 90% over the last 10 years, and only 15 cases of Guinea worm disease were reported in 2021 globally, compared to 3.5 million cases in the mid-1980s.

However, the health organization notes that the progress remains off track where more than 1.7 billion people still required treatment and care for NTDs in 2020. Moreover, the targets set out in WHO’s NTD road map for 2021–2030 also face severe risk due, in part, to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General, during the event said, “The elimination of Dracunculiasis, Lymphatic Filariasis, Human African Trypanosomiasis and Trachoma is an outstanding achievement, and a gift not only for the people of Togo today, but for generations to come.”

Furthermore, according to Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, the achievement by Togo to eliminate the NTDS is an example for the rest of Africa, demonstrating what is possible when health is made a priority. “Togo has achieved a major feat by becoming the first country in Africa to eliminate four neglected tropical diseases,” she said.

Thoko Elphick-Pooley, Executive Director of Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases, also noted that Togo’s achievement is an important milestone for Africa and the global health community, demonstrating that ending NTDs is possible.

He therefore called upon other African leaders to be inspired by the achievement Togo has made to transform the health of its citizens, adding that central to this success has been commitment and political ownership.