By Sola Ogundipe
THE African Leaders Malaria Alliance, ALMA has included Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in its annual scorecard on disease progress.
Announcing the development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the opening of the 30th African Union Heads of State Summit, ALMA said the scorecard is personally reviewed by African Heads of State every year, putting NTDs alongside malaria and maternal and child health as top health priorities for the continent.
Developed by the World Health Organization in collaboration with Uniting to Combat NTDs, the index reports progress for the 47 NTD-affected countries in Sub-Saharan Africa in their strategies to treat and prevent the five most common NTDs: lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminths and trachoma.
By adding NTDs to the scorecard, African leaders have publicly committed to hold themselves accountable for progress on these diseases.
The NTDs are a group of diseases that put more than 1.5 billion of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people at risk. They cause blindness, disfigurement, disability, stigma and discrimination. Parents are left unable to work and children unable to go to school.
While the index shows progress in Africa, there is more to be done. For instance, nearly two-thirds of countries have a NTD coverage index of less than 50 percent.
The percentage of affected countries implementing disease-specific interventions ranges from 92 percent for trachoma to just 72 percent for schistosomiasis, suggesting that there is still much more to do.
The addition of the index came just before the 6th anniversary of the London Declaration on NTDs, a multi-sectoral partnership committed to control, eliminate or eradicate 10 diseases by 2020.