The World Health Organisation has acknowledged Togo as the first country to eliminate four Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) globally.
The WHO made this known during its Regional Committee for Africa meeting held in Lomé on Monday.
The PUNCH reports that between 2011 and 2022, Togo has successfully eliminated dracunculiasis (Guinea worm disease), elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis), human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) and trachoma.
NTDs are a group of 20 preventable and treatable diseases, but 1.7 billion people worldwide still require NTD interventions. Many NTDs debilitate, disfigure and disable by preventing children from going to school and adults from being able to work.
In a statement made available to our correspondent by the Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases and signed by its Associate Consultant, Kingsley Ochieng, it noted that as the first country acknowledged by WHO as having won its fight against four NTDs, Togo eliminated all four diseases in just eleven years.
“Togo previously achieved transmission-free status for Guinea worm disease in 2011. In 2017, it became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to eliminate elephantiasis as a public health problem and, in 2020, became the first African country to achieve the same status with sleeping sickness.
“To eliminate these diseases, Togo adopted a two-pronged approach that focused on first, interrupting transmission and preventing occurrence of new infections; and secondly, treating or managing diseases, their associated morbidity, and their complications, to alleviate suffering,” it said.
The President of Togo, Faure Gbassingbe, said, “I thank you for your appreciation of my country’s achievements in the elimination of neglected tropical diseases. This progress has been made possible thanks to the dedication and commitment of all health actors who are working at all levels in our country to preserve this precious good that is health. Health is a priority that we have placed at the heart of our development policies. One of the ambitions of the government’s roadmap to 2025 is to guarantee health coverage and access to basic services for all.”
The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said “The elimination of dracunculiasis, lymphatic filariasis, human African trypanosomiasis and trachoma is an outstanding achievement and a gift not only for the people of Togo today but for generations to come.”
In June earlier this year, the WHO endorsed and signed the landmark Kigali Declaration on NTDs.
The Kigali Declaration is a high-level political declaration mobilising political will and securing commitments to achieve the global targets in the WHO NTD Road Map 2021-2030 and the Sustainable Development Goal target on NTDs.
The Kigali Declaration, launched by the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, has already secured the largest ever financial commitment for NTDs to date.
“Togo has achieved a major feat by becoming the first country in Africa to eliminate four neglected tropical diseases,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti.
He added, “This achievement is an example for the rest of Africa and shows what is possible when health is made a priority.”
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The PUNCH reports that to date, 46 countries have eliminated at least one NTD, 600 million people no longer require treatment for NTDs, and cases of diseases that have plagued humanity for centuries, such as sleeping sickness and Guinea worm disease, are at an all-time low.
Executive Director of Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases, Thoko Elphick-Pooley, said, “Togo’s achievement is an important milestone for Africa and the global health community, demonstrating that ending NTDs is possible. Central to this success has been committed country and political ownership, and I hope that leaders across Africa are inspired by the incredible actions taken by Togo to transform the health of its citizens.”