ALMA congratulates Chad on eliminating human African trypanosomiasis as a public health problem

Published: Dar Es Salaam, 20 June 2024

ALMA congratulates the Republic of Chad for eliminating the Neglected Tropical Disease, human African trypanosomiasis, also known as sleeping sickness, as a public health problem. This significant achievement marks the first neglected tropical disease (NTD) to be eliminated in Chad, making it the 51st country globally to reach this milestone, and a significant step towards the global target of 100 countries by 2030.

Chad is the first country in 2024 to be recognised for eliminating an NTD, joining a growing group of nations that have eliminated at least one of these diseases. As of June 2024, 20 countries in the WHO African region have eliminated at least one NTD, with Togo leading with four NTDs eliminated, followed by Benin and Ghana, each with three NTDs eliminated.

The elimination of the gambiense form of human African trypanosomiasis in Chad reflects our commitment to improving the health of our people. This achievement results from years of dedicated efforts by our health workers, communities, and partners. We will continue this momentum to tackle other neglected tropical diseases and ensure a healthier future for all Chadians.

Hon. Dr Abdel Modjid Abderahim Mahamat, Minister of Health, Chad

Neglected Tropical Diseases are a group of 21 diseases endemic to tropical and subtropical areas, affecting over 1.7 billion people globally. Africa bears nearly 40% of this burden.

Human African trypanosomiasis , or sleeping sickness, can initially cause flu-like symptoms but may eventually lead to behavioural changes, confusion, sleep disturbances, coma, and death. Improved access to early diagnosis, treatment, surveillance, and response has shown that countries can control and ultimately eliminate transmission. To date, seven countries have been validated by WHO for eliminating the gambiense form of human African trypanosomiasis: Togo (2020), Benin (2021), Côte d’Ivoire (2021), Uganda (2022), Equatorial Guinea (2022), Ghana (2023), and now Chad (2024). The rhodesiense form of the disease has been eliminated as a public health problem in Rwanda.

The Africa Continental Framework and the Common Position on NTDs emphasize the need for integrated and coordinated efforts to address these pervasive health issues. By prioritising NTD elimination, the continental framework aims to improve health outcomes, enhance economic productivity, and reduce poverty across the continent. Eliminating NTDs in Africa reflects a broader commitment to advancing public health and socio-economic development in Africa.

The establishment of National End Malaria and NTD Councils and Funds will be crucial in mobilising sufficient resources to combat NTDs. These country-owned and led multi-sectoral forums bring together leaders from government, the private sector, civil society, and the community to drive public and private domestic resource mobilisation and support national NTD and malaria control programmes. Initially focused on malaria, some countries, such as Guinea-Bissau, are now including NTDs in their councils and funds. ALMA supports African countries in establishing these councils. Scorecard tools for accountability and action, which help track NTDs, enhance advocacy, and keep NTDs high on the political and funding agenda are also key.

To date, over 20 countries are implementing NTD scorecard tools to enhance action and increase domestic and partner resource commitments for NTDs. Countries have increased the number of NTD indicators available through routine health information systems, thereby allowing for real-time action to address bottlenecks. The countries have strengthened and institutionalised their scorecard tools to promote transparent data sharing, documenting country best practices to assist fellow countries, and sharing their scorecard tools on the ALMA Scorecard Hub. Chad’s milestone illustrates the potential to overcome Africa’s most pressing health challenges, including NTDs and malaria, which often intersect. An NTD-free world is achievable.