World NTDs Day 2023 Statement by His Excellency President Umaro Sissoco Embaló, President of the Replubic of Guinea Bissau
Achievements by African countries in the control and elimination of NTDs is an inspiration to the rest of the world and demonstrates the power of collective action in response to a public health challenge.
More than a billion people are affected by Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) globally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Africa accounts for nearly 40% (400 million people) of the global burden. These diseases can be devastating, including causing severe pain, disabilities and deformities leading to stigma and discrimination, malnutrition, stunted growth, and cognitive impairment.
The Neglected Tropical Disease global roadmap 2021—2030 has targets to reduce the number of people requiring treatment for NTDs, by 90%; eliminate at least one NTD in 100 countries; entirely eradicate two NTDs – Guinea worm and yaws and finally; reduce disabilities related to NTDs by 75%.
As I reflect on these bold and ambitious targets on this World NTDs Day 2023, I note with great encouragement that Africa has made significant strides in the fight against NTDs. In 2022 Togo become the first country in the world to eliminate four NTDS. In the same year, Malawi became the first country in Southern Africa to eliminate trachoma. Achievements by these countries, as well as by other African nations, is an inspiration to the rest of the world and demonstrates the power of collective action in response to a public health challenge.
The 2022 Kigali Summit on Malaria and NTDs, marked a significant milestone towards achieving the elimination goals. The launch of the Kigali Declaration saw the global NTDs community galvanize commitments from donor governments, endemic country governments, pharmaceutical companies, NGOs, with US$1.5 billion in financial commitments and 18 billion donated tablets.
This remarkable progress is a culmination of the diligent work done over a decade and would not have been possible without the leadership of African countries and the support of our international partners. Together, we have implemented innovative strategies that have improved access to diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of NTDs. These strategies include mass drug administration campaigns, improved health systems, and increased public awareness.
The Africa Leaders Malaria Alliance has consistently worked with AU Member States towards strengthening action in the control and elimination of NTDs including through the country NTD Scorecards for Accountability and Action. In 2022 alone, collaboration with Member States and partners saw the NTD scorecards adopted by 8 African countries, including my own country, bringing the continental footprint to 17. These scorecards have helped to mobilise additional partner resources, domestic resource commitments, enhance co-ordination and improve data quality. We remain committed to using this innovative digitalization tool as a driver for high level engagement towards the mobilization of greater funding and partner support for national NTDs programmes as well as expanding coverage for Mass Drug Administration.
Later this quarter, we expect the first End Malaria and NTD councils and funds. This will allow us to keep NTDs high on the national development and financing agenda and enhance multi-sectoral collaboration.
I however must note that while the progress made on multiple fronts to date is remarkable, there is still work to do. This is especially in lieu of COVID-19 disruptions whose impacts we continue to recover from. We must continue to strengthen our efforts to improve access to health services and treatment and to invest in research and development of new diagnostics and treatment. We must also ensure that those suffering from NTDs have access to the support they need to overcome the stigma associated with these diseases. Let us continue to work together to ensure that all African countries can achieve our shared vision of a world free from NTDs.
To make this vision a reality, we must ensure that African countries – which carry the greatest burden of NTDs – have the resources needed to continue their fight. This means that all of us must work together to increase the funding available to control and eliminate NTDs in Africa. We must also continue to work together to ensure that all countries have access to the latest diagnostics, treatment, and preventative measures available.
Thank you for your commitment to the fight against NTDs. On this World NTDs Day 2023, I urge us all to Act now, Act together and Invest in Neglected Tropical Diseases. This is the only way for us to incrementally move towards the reality of an NTD- free world. Together, we can make a real difference in the lives of the most marginalized in our communities.
I thank you.