By Sharon Atieno

Togo has become the fourth country in Africa to eliminate Trachoma, a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) that causes permanent blindness.

Joining Morocco, Ghana and the Gambia, efforts to eliminate the disease in Togo started in 1989, with its inclusion as one of the priority neglected tropical diseases under the national control programme.

The major elimination strategy was screening and treatment of people with late trachoma complications as well as conducting community sensitizations.

“Togo’s achievement is a significant step in the progress towards trachoma elimination. Children across the country and their families can now live without the fear of the severe impacts of this preventable disease thanks to sustained control measures,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

Apart from Trachoma, the African continent faces a burden of at least 13 other NTDs which have affected about 700 million people across the continent.

It is in this regard that leaders and experts attending the Global Summit on NTDs in Nairobi, Kenya called upon African countries to own NTD programs and increase collaboration to end NTDs by 2030.

Dr. Dereje Duguma, State Minister of Health, Ethiopia

Speaking during the Global Summit convened by End Fund, Dr. Dereje Duguma, State Minister for Health, Ethiopia said with Africa facing a number of epidemics and pandemics, the continent has to be self-reliant.

According to Duguma, being self-reliant involves learning from each other on how to solve the different challenges that Africa is facing including the NTDs.

He added that there is need for multisectoral approach and collaboration across the borders in order to eliminate NTDs by 2030.

Calling for sustainability of NTD programs, Dr. Sultani Matendechero, Head, Kenya Public Health Institute said: “We can never achieve economic development as long as NTDs continue to be as prevalent as they are in our countries. This is a very important agenda not just to the health sector but also to the economic sector of our countries.”

He said that governments need to quantify their financing in NTDs and increase that support to make the programs sustainable, adding that COVID-19 saw some NTD programs disrupted due to financial interruptions in donor countries.

Dr. Sultani Matendechero, Head, Kenya Public Health Institute

So far, 45 countries have eliminated at least one NTD. Of the five countries that have eliminated an NTD in 2022, four are African. These include Togo which has eliminated Trachoma and, Benin, Uganda and Rwanda which have eliminated human African trypanosomiasis.

The Summit coincided with the End Fund celebrating 10 years of impact in NTDs. Since 2012, the organization has supported about 1.1 billion treatment for NTDs.