Endemic Countries Lead the Fight against NTDs



Nearly 1.8 billion people require treatment for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Many of these diseases can be easily prevented or treated, yet only 43 percent of people are receiving the treatment they need for the most common NTDs.

In this time of resource scarcity, our collective commitment to the poorest communities should not wane. Yet, the traditional donor-supported model is not a sustainable solution. Increasingly, the global health and development community has been promoting the concept of country ownership as a critical issue of sustainability for country programs. In order to build programs that will live on past the life of a grant or the passing interest of a donor country, affected nations need independent, self-sustaining systems that are domestically organized and funded. This is not country ownership, but rather country leadership.

This country leadership was solidified when health ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the Addis Ababa Commitment on NTDs at the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva in May. Nearly two dozen African countries signed this declaration in December 2014, pledging to increase domestic investment, promote multi-sector approaches, encourage adoption of data-driven, long-term strategic plans and ensure mutual support of NTD programs and overall health systems.

This Commitment heralds a new development model, where low- and middle-income countries partner together to invest in and lead their own development with support from the global community.

The Addis Commitment exemplifies the partnership required to create a successful health system through political, financial and technical reciprocity between donor countries and endemic countries.  While financial assistance is a critical stepping stone on the road to self-sufficiency, the real value comes from building proficiencies and systems that will last long after the money has been spent.

Government of Nigeria Releases New Data on the Prevalence of Schistosomiasis and Intestinal Worms



On Thursday June 4, Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health released, for the first time, comprehensive data on the national distribution of two major neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) — schistosomiasis and intestinal worms. This new information, gathered by the government of Nigeria and a network of partners, found that across 19 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) approximately 24 million Nigerians were at risk for schistosomiasis and 21 million were at risk for intestinal worms. Children between the ages of 5 – 10 had the highest prevalence of infection. The results also showed that men were more likely than females to have one of the diseases.

Nigeria is said to have the highest burden of NTDs in sub-Saharan Africa. While the government and NGO partners have already taken several steps to address the burden of disease, comprehensive epidemiological mapping had not been available until recently. Moving forward, the data gathered from this mapping project will aid the Federal Ministry of Health in planning effective intervention measures for both schistosomiasis and intestinal worms.

People infected with NTDs like schistosomiasis and intestinal worms are often unable to work or attend school – resulting in an endless cycle of economic hardship. Treating these diseases is critical to reducing poverty and boosting economic prosperity. Given the strong association between NTDs and economic development, NTD control and elimination should be considered an important factor in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria. Nigeria’s quest to be one of the 20 major economic players globally by 2020 as captured in it Vision 20: 2020 will depend on a healthy and productive society that does not neglect the less fortunate.

The prevalence mapping survey was completed by analyzing 50 – 55 children from five randomly selected schools in the 19 states and FCT. The Federal Ministry of Health partnered with the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Sightsavers, Helen Keller International, DFID and RTI/ENVISION to carry out the survey. Epidemiological data on both diseases were collected using a novel technique; the LINKS system developed by the Task Force for Global Health which uses smart phones for data collection and cloud based data reporting and management.

Map of Nigeria displaying study area

Map of Nigeria displaying study area

The results showed an overall prevalence rate of 9.5 percent for schistosomiasis and 27 percent for intestinal worms.

The data gathered from the mapping survey will enable Nigeria to receive the appropriate amount of donated medicines to treat schistosomiasis and intestinal worms, so that they can deliver the medicine to where it is most needed. In addition to providing actionable data, the mapping project helped build and improve the capacity of health workers across Nigeria for the country’s NTD programme. The project also fostered a platform for cross-sector learning and skills sharing, which ultimately improved programme coordination.

Moving forward, the Federal Ministry of Health has recommended that all levels of government (Federal, State and LGAs), NTD partners and other stakeholders — with the cooperation of the communities — scale up uninterrupted provision and administration of appropriate medicines alongside other environmental improvement interventions such as clean water and sanitation provisions. Plans should also be put in place for impact assessment after the third year of consistent Mass Administration of Medicines.

While there is much work to be done, the successful completion of epidemiological mapping for schistosomiasis and intestinal worms is a promising sign. Armed with this information, Nigeria can strategically and effectively scale up their efforts to control and eliminate these debilitating diseases for a more prosperous Nigeria.  Nigeria’s new government, led by President Buhari, should take advantage of this cost effective and relatively simple intervention in order to make a tremendous impact on the country’s most vulnerable populations.

Photos provided by Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health. 

Time for NTDs to Emerge from the Shadows


More and more, leaders from endemic and donor countries alike are recognizing the importance of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). NTDs, the most common diseases of the world’s poor, are on the agenda for this week’s G7 summit in Germany, where leaders from the G7 countries, along with representatives from the European Union and leaders from six African countries, will discuss key issues of economic, foreign, security and development policy.

At the World Health Assembly last month in Geneva, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that NTDs will be a top priority for the group, stating, “With relatively little material effort, the suffering of hundreds of millions of people could be combated.” Merkel also stressed the importance of close collaboration with affected countries.

The G7’s support will hopefully result in a much-needed boost to investment in NTD treatment and prevention efforts, and certainly raise the global profile of NTDs. The G7’s influence could be instrumental, as well, in ensuring that specific indicators for NTDs are incorporated into the United Nations post-2015 development framework and the final Sustainable Development Goals.

Established more than 15 years ago, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set out measurable accomplishments to improve the world by 2015. Despite crippling health effects and evidence that NTDs perpetuate poverty, hunger and poor education outcomes, NTDs were lumped into MDG 6 under “other diseases,” lacking specific indicators to measure success or rally sufficient resources.

As the MDG deadline nears and the Sustainable Development Goals are finalized, an important opportunity presents itself to set clear mileposts for NTDs that were missing from the MDGs, catapult support for NTD programs, and help lift millions of the world’s most neglected people out of poverty. Watch our video to see why this is so important:

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