Understanding Africa’s role in NTD control and elimination

 

General TY Danjuma, chairman of the TY Danjuma Foundation, knows what it’s like to suffer from an NTD. During his time in the Nigerian army, Danjuma contracted onchocerciasis (also known as river blindness) and felt the pain and discomfort of tiny worms crawling through his skin. He was treated in a few weeks and went on to have a successful career in the army and in the Nigerian government. But, as a result of his experience, Danjuma recognizes the need for programs to control onchocerciasis and other NTDs.

Photo credit: Jessica Stuart, Long Story Short Media

“It’s heartbreaking that lives continue to be destroyed,” Danjuma said at an event hosted recently by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) and the Sabin Vaccine Institute.

Danjuma is at the forefront of a new philanthropic movement where Africans are helping fellow Africans. At the event, Danjuma, along with representatives from the World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Sabin Vaccine Institute and CSIS, discussed how this kind of emerging African leadership will help make NTD elimination possible. Several other groups are also joining this movement—including pharmaceutical companies, philanthropic organizations, governments, and not-for-profit groups—focusing on how to improve access to vital medicines, strengthen health systems for NTD control and develop new treatments.

NTDs are a group of diseases that affect more than one billion people worldwide, primarily those living in the world’s poorest communities. They can cause blindness or disfigurement and they keep kids from learning and adults from leading productive lives. Speakers at the CSIS event agreed that the time is now to take action and make NTD control a global health priority.

This movement has already begun. Last month, at an event called the London Declaration, pharmaceutical companies, governments and global health organizations committed to eliminating ten NTDs by 2020 by increasing drug donations, expanding drug and health service delivery programs and investing in research and development to find the best solutions for NTD control. In Africa, General Danjuma rallied African governments and development organizations to support the continuation of the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC), which led to large contributions from Nigerian officials and from the Nigerian government. Despite the fact that President Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget request proposed a 24 percent reduction to NTD control and elimination efforts, the financial commitments made by African leaders and at the London Declaration signify that there is momentum to eliminate NTDs. It is critical that the US Government is a part of this movement.

Also speaking at the event, Dr. Donald Bundy, lead health specialist for Africa at the World Bank, commended General Danjuma and other African leaders working to improve the health and the lives of Africa’s neglected people, the people “at the end of the road.” Drs. Neeraj Mistry, managing director of the Global Network, and Julie Jacobson, senior program officer for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations, reminded us that there is also a role for everyone in the fight against NTDs. With popular support, the NTD community will also have a stronger pull on political will, which is especially important in NTD endemic countries.

According to Dr. Mistry, this was the rationale behind launching the Global Network’s new campaign, END7, which invites all people to be a part of the elimination of NTDs. For just 50 cents, anyone around the world can help treat a person for an entire year. Even this small donation will help people be a part of the collaboration that is necessary to make the end of NTDs truly possible.

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About Amy Alabaster

Amy is a communications intern for the Global Network and the Sabin Vaccine Institute. Before joining Sabin, Amy worked as a writer for the NIH Research Matters publication and as an NIH Fellow for the Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research. She has an M.S. degree in biochemistry from the University of Arizona.

One thought on “Understanding Africa’s role in NTD control and elimination

  1. I appreciate him so much for what he is doing and wish that more people will emulate this so that the helpless, indigents and underserved poor people in our rural communities can be helped. I did my high school & college degree in Maduguri (Borno State) and Jos (Plateau State), so I really do understand firsthand what the impact of onchocerciasis is in these areas.
    My PhD research was on Epidemiology, Prevalence & Comparative Trial of efficacy of Ivermectin against albendazole in Azumini/Okigwe area of Abia & Imo States. The outcome of this research in 1997 was the first documented evidence of onchocerciasis in the South Eastern part of Nigeria, which led to the use of ivermectin for mass treatment.
    Right now we are looking at alternative and cheaper cure for Sickle Cell Disease, which has the 2nd highest record of infant mortality rate in Nigeria. There are still a lot of other debilitating neglected diseases that needs to be addresses like Sickle Cell Disease.
    Thanks for the good work you are doing helping to bring these neglected diseases to limelight.

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