Speak Up Africa, the Dakar, Senegal-based nonprofit working to catalyze dialogues, drive policy changes and create awareness on health and sanitation issues in Africa, this week, hosted a conversation with the World Health Organization (WHO) on the theme: “Neglected Tropical Diseases and COVID-19: Why we need the new NTD Roadmap more than ever.”
Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are a group of debilitating infectious diseases affecting about 1.7 billion people worldwide; they remain a serious impediment to poverty reduction, socioeconomic development and achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC), says the WHO. WHO is responsible for coordinating and supporting policies and strategies focused on enhancing access to interventions for the prevention, control, elimination and eradication of NTDs across the globe.
Subsequent to the progress and challenges recorded in implementing the WHO`s Roadmap on Neglected Tropical Diseases 2012–2020; in 2018, the Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for Neglected Tropical Diseases (STAG-NTD) urged the WHO to initiate a consultative process with the global NTDs community, aimed at setting post-2020 targets and milestones, so as to achieve all the health-related 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Moreover, the STAG-NTD recommended that the targets for the new global Roadmap 2021–2030 be ambitious, evidence-based and realistic.
While speaking at Speak Up Africa`s webinar series tagged: #VirtualBridges on Wednesday, Dr Mwelecele Ntuli Malecela, director of the WHO’s Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases, said the new road map was now more than ever before relevant, thanks to its strong ties to UHC.
She noted said national and regional workshops including public and expert reviews were carried out while developing the new roadmap, so as to strengthen existing partnerships, develop new ones and ensure they were defined by a commitment to equity and equality in eliminating and eradicating NTDs the world over. “Measuring impact, adopting a holistic cross-cutting approach and country ownership are crucial if we want to be successful in the fight against NTDs. Hence, this is the focus of the new global NTDs Roadmap 2020–2030: promoting resilience, country ownership, integrated and multi-sectoral approaches,” Dr Malecela said.
Malecela noted that WHO had made some progress in the eradication of NTDs around the world adding that about 40 countries had successfully eliminated at least, one of the NTDs in the past one year. She described diagnostics, monitoring and evaluation, advocacy and fundraising as some of the major gaps in the fight against NTDs.
“Today, our new road map is more relevant than ever. At its heart, it seeks to promote resilience, health systems strengthening, equity and country ownership – none of which can be imposed. These tasks require that we collaborate. I am more certain than ever that these principles will enable us not only to control, eliminate and eradicate specific NTDs, but also to demonstrate through our collective action that health is a basic and universal human right, regardless of social or economic status,” wrote Dr Malecela in a recent article.
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