Countries affected by neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in the African Region should intensify efforts along with their health and development partners to raise the profile of these diseases of poverty.
They should also advocate for increased domestic funding to sustain implementation of national NTD programmes, work to strengthen national health services, and improve national NTD programme implementation at the community level so that treatments can directly reach those targeted with minimum delay.
This advice was given by the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo, in his closing remarks at a consultative meeting on NTDs which ended in Brazzaville on 22 March. .
“If we undertake these actions, the impact of our interventions will be felt”, he said. “We will be alleviating the suffering of millions of affected people and helping to break the cycle of poverty engendered by these diseases of poverty.”
The Regional Director who participated actively in technical sessions of the meeting acknowledged the contribution of the pharmaceutical industry, donors, national governments, and non-governmental development organizations (NGDOs) towards reducing the burden of NTDs in the Region.
He praised the high quality of discussions during the meeting which focused on, among others, issues of integration of national NTD programmes and interventions, and effective coordination mechanisms that can improve synergies, reduce transaction costs for all and assure better results and impact.
Dr Sambo also suggested a reform of the Committee of Sponsoring Agencies and the Joint Action Forum (JAF) which oversee the activities of the Ouagadougou-based African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC).
He said “I believe the CSA’s donor base should be broadened to include African countries and that in their next meeting, the two bodies should look into ways in which WHO’s role could be re-adapted in order to further strengthen support for country NTD programmes.”
Dr Sambo also indicated that a Regional NTD Strategic Plan is being prepared by the Regional Office and that this plan would be a top agenda item on the 63rd Session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa scheduled for 2 – 6 September in Brazzaville, Congo.
In attendance at the three-day meeting were about t 70 participants including Permanent Secretaries, Directors of Medical Services from Ministries of Health, technical experts and representatives of donors and pharmaceutical firms, non-governmental development organizations (NGDOs) and other experts.