This past June, more than 100 participants gathered in Accra, Ghana for the Regional Stakeholders’ Consultative Meeting on Neglected Tropical Diseases hosted by the WHO-AFRO to discuss the challenges, resources requirements, and goals to controlling and eliminating Africa’s NTDs.
Ministries of Health, donors, policymakers, health experts and pharmaceutical companies joined together at the Regional Stakeholders’ Consultative Meeting on NTDs to draft the Accra Call to Action. Immediately following that meeting, NTD program managers met at the Annual Regional NTD Program Managers Meeting, where they discussed the recently finalized multi-year integrated NTD control and elimination plans, a huge step towards controlling and eliminating NTDs in the region.
Though still in draft form, the Accra Call to Action called for increased political support for NTD control, and invited partners in all sectors to contribute resources to this effort. In addition, the Call to Action hoped to draw attention to the need for education and communication strategies to raise awareness of these diseases and their often debilitating effects. It highlighted the need for investment in surveillance technologies to help conduct NTD mapping and to monitor the effectiveness of treatment programs. Africa currently bears around 50 percent of the global NTD burden, the highest among all regions.
After the Regional Stakeholder meeting, the Annual Regional NTD Program Manager Meeting provided a forum for NTD program managers to share successes and challenges of their NTD control programs, and to discuss next steps to move towards the elimination and control of these diseases by 2020.
Using the finalized multi-year national integrated NTD plans, WHO estimated the total needed to finance the entire region’s NTD programs at $1.5 billion. This number represents the total investment required to implement NTD control in more than 30 countries over five years.
Ensuring the financial sustainability of these national programs remains an area of strategic attention as the program managers break new ground in the effort to control and eliminate NTDs. Ghana took an early step forward and made headlines during the events by pledging $1 million to fund national NTD projects.
The results of these June meetings are terrific for endemic African countries. The national integrated plans and the Accra Call to Action show the commitment of stakeholders to scale up the efforts to combat NTDs, create government ownership of these programs, and create a good environment for implementation to move forward in the region.