By: Alanna Shaikh
On Friday November 26, the Second Inter-Ministerial Conference on Health and Environment in Africa came to a close. The 46 countries that attended adopted a declaration – the Luanda declaration that lays out future health and environmental priorities. It looks like good news for the fight against NTDs.
The list of priorities, honestly, looks like pretty much everything that has to do with health and the environment: “…provision of safe drinking water; Provision of sanitation and hygiene services; Management of environmental and health risks related to climate change; Sustainable management of forests and wetland and Management of water, soil and air pollution as well as biodiversity conservation.
Other priorities are Vector Control and management of chemicals, particularly pesticides and wastes; Food safety and security, including the management of genetically-modified organisms in food productions; Childrens health and womens environmental health; Health in the workplace and the Management of natural and human-induced disasters.”
Looking deeper, though, it is very interesting what made the list. We’ve done well, within the limitations of global financial support to NTDs, with the medical approach to eliminating the diseases. Mass drug administration, health care provider training, research into vaccines and better treatments. There has been an impressive amount of progress considering the small funding pool. (But no, that does not mean we can stop calling them neglected. NTD programs are good at making do, but wow they could do a lot more with some serious financial support.)
We’ve done less well on addressing the social and environmental determinants of the NTDs. It’s more complex in a lot of ways, and it’s been simpler to focus on medicine. However, we’re not going to treat our way out of the NTDs. We need to look at transmission and context. That’s where this declaration fits in. It reads like a set of WHO guidelines on battling neglected tropical diseases, and that is a very good thing.