African heads of medical doctors from across the continent poured into Gaborone this week to chart the way forward on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)currently ravaging the Sub-Saharan African countries.
While river blindness, elephantiasis, leprosy, intestinal worms, blood in urine and blinding trachoma are preventable the diseases continue to take precious lives of African inhabitant including Botswana.
Acting World Health Organisation Representative, Dr Tebogo Madidimalo put the blame on government policy makers, the donor community and even the victims themselves- all of whom focused on the high profile diseases at the expense of others.
“However with the increasing global attention we are seeing policies and resolutions at global and continental levels,” Madidimalo said at a press conference following a three day consultative meeting at Gaborone Sun Hotel.
He said even though the diseases have been around since time immemorial and have proved easy to contain, river blindness, leprosy and elephantiasis amongst others surprisingly continue to cause havoc in the same manner as high profile diseases like malaria.
But a delegation of medical practitioners including advisors and facilitators from over 17 African states including Botswana vowed to make the diseases a thing of the past.
“The fantastic thing about these diseases is that they are easy to get rid of especially in Botswana,” noted Regional Advisor for NTD’s Dr Adiele Onyeze, emphasing the importance of all governments and stakeholders to own the initiative to eradicate the diseases by the year 2020.
Despite Botswana being largely free from these diseases, some isolated cases could be detected in some parts of the country.
“There are reported cases of neglected tropical diseases in Botswana in particular leprosy, intestinal worms, trachoma and blood in urine. Annually the country reports an average of 6 new cases of leprosy which is mainly concentrated in north-western part of the country,” indicated Ndibo Monyatsi, an official from the Ministry of Health.
The figure however falls below the World Health Organisation threshold of 1 case in 1000,000 population, suggesting that Botswana may not have a huge burden of NTD’s.
East, West and Central African countries are hard-hit by the diseases as a result of environmental, geographical dimensions and glaring poverty, a situation which calls for concerted efforts of all governments and stakeholders.
“NTD’s are like neglected children and continue to cause damage unnoticed. The diseases call for concerted efforts… to work together as governments and communities for the accomplishment of our mission as stipulated by WHO for a free NTD’s by 2020,” Onyeze concluded.
The conference included African states from Mauritius, South Sudan and Madagascar amongst other participants.