On the sidelines of the African Union Summit, national and international leaders join the “No to NTDs” movement to reduce the burden of neglected tropical diseases in sub-Saharan Africa
The high-level side event was convened as part of the African Union Summit, by policy and advocacy tank Speak Up Africa, in partnership with the Ministry of Health and First Lady of Niger, H.E Mrs. Aïssata Issoufou. Held under the High Patronage of His Excellency Mr. Mahamadou Issoufou, and chaired by the First Lady of Niger, the convening saw high level speakers from across the region discuss the challenges to NTD elimination and collaborative strategies to accelerate progress against diseases that currently blight the lives of millions of people across the region.
Over 100 participants attended the event including H.E Mrs. Sika Kaboré, First Lady of Burkina Faso, H.E Mrs. Hinda Deby Itno, First Lady of Chad, H.E Mrs. Antoinette Sassou Nguesso, First Lady of Congo and current President of the Organization of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD), the Queen of ESwatini, Dr. Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Abdourahmane Diallo, Executive Director of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, Mrs. Joy Phumaphi, Executive Secretary of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), Dr. Idi Illiassou Mainassara, Minister of Health of Niger, Mrs. Françoise Vanni, External Relations Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The event provided attending leaders with a platform to assess the progress toward NTD elimination on the continent and learn from best practices for informed decisions on the creation of sustainable partnerships for universal health coverage.
His Excellency Mr. Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Niger, underlined the importance that his government attaches to health, particularly through the implementation of Niger’s Renaissance program, which will help the country achieve its universal health coverage objectives.
H.E Mrs. Aïssata Issoufou, First Lady of Niger, commented: “After all progress, particularly in countries most heavily burdened with NTDs, depends on strong and consistent country leadership and regional coordination, to ensure that all people, particularly the most vulnerable and marginalized, have access to quality health services and NTD prevention methods.”
Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of communicable diseases which affect more than 1.5 billion people worldwide, 39% of whom live in Africa. NTDs affect the most vulnerable members of society, and whilst there has been some progress in recent years, attendees at the event emphasized that failing to do more to fight NTDs now, including developing new tools and resources, will have significant consequences for future generations in Africa.
In Niger, NTDs including lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis and trachoma are endemic. A highlight of the event was therefore the formal launch of a new monitoring and accountability tool to help better manage NTD prevention and treatment initiatives in Niger. Launched by the Government of Niger, the new NTD ‘scorecard’ will measure national and sub-national progress against NTDs, including the number of cases of these diseases reported in each region, the number of interventions supplied to prevent cases of NTDs, and the rate of treatment offered to those affected.
Dr Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, commented: “As we make progress in the fight against NTDs, the momentum presented by universal health coverage is a unique opportunity to harness our synergies to ensure that no one is left behind”.
Ms. Yacine Djibo, Executive Director, Speak Up Africa, commented: “The elimination of neglected tropical diseases is within reach. All of us here, in this room and beyond, have a responsibility to act to accelerate the elimination of these diseases by 2030. More than ever, we need to mobilize our financial and technical resources. The commitment and ownership of this NTD control and elimination by the communities remains crucial to overcome these diseases.”
At the meeting, HE Mrs. First Lady of Niger Aïssata Issoufou stressed the need to adopt new innovative approaches. Three days before the meeting, the government of Niger launched a national coalition against NTDs, which aims to strengthen coordination among partners to maximize available financial and technical resources and diversify partners fighting for the elimination of NTDs. This marks the launch of the ‘No to NTDs’ campaign in Niger, implemented in partnership with Speak Up Africa. The campaign aims to increase commitment and ownership of NTD elimination at all levels of society.