A ‘league table’ is being drawn up showing how African countries are faring in the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). NTDs rarely make headline news, yet they affect 1.6 billion people in the poorest parts of the globe – including around 580 million people in Africa. That’s close to 50% of the entire population of Africa.
On February 10th and 11th African leaders will attend the African Union Summit in Ethiopia. The Summit will include a presentation and a discussion of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) scorecard, a tool which tracks the progress against malaria as well the five most common NTDs, amongst other diseases.
NTDs, such as river blindness and the limb-swelling disease elephantiasis, thrive in areas with poor sanitation and hygiene. They stop children from going to school and adults from going to work by causing debilitating illnesses and mobility problems. This traps millions of people in a vicious cycle of poverty, robbing them of their dignity. NTDs can also be deadly.
But there is good news. Many NTDs can be prevented, treated and even eliminated. The drugs needed to protect people from the NTDs are available free of charge to countries from pharmaceutical companies. For this reason delivering the drugs required only costs around 50 US cents per treatment per person per year, making this one of the best buys in global health (in some cases several rounds of treatment are required).
The league table is drawn from the ALMA scorecard, and both are based on information supplied by the countries themselves. The African leaders’ review of the latest figures is expected to reveal, among other statistics, that:
- Three African countries – which are among the poorest on the continent – have, in the last three years, consistently out-performed richer neighbours in the fight against NTDs.
- The number of those in need of treatment for NTDs continent-wide has reduced in the last three years, while the proportion of those in need of treatment, and who received it, has increased.
- One African country alone has tens of millions of people requiring treatment for a single NTD.
- While medicines to protect African citizens from these debilitating diseases are available to the countries for free, some countries in Africa are still not protecting their populations.
- The league table with African nations ranked in their fight against NTDs will be published around the time of the Summit in February along with country specific data and other analyses.
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