The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Office for Africa (AFRO), Tuesday, launched a major new partnership to help African countries reduce the burden of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
The Expanded Special Project for Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ESPEN) will provide national NTD programmes with technical and fundraising support to help them control and eliminate the five NTDs with the greatest burden on the continent, which collectively affect hundreds of millions of people.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, said: “We’re excited to launch ESPEN to scale up the work against these terrible diseases. We know what needs to be done to beat NTDs; ESPEN will make sure national NTD programmes have the data, expertise and financial resources they need to accelerate the fight against these diseases.”
NTDs are a group of diseases that place a constant and heavy burden primarily on the poorest, most marginalized and isolated communities in the world. Forty percent of the global burden of NTDs is in Africa, where these diseases destroy lives, prevent children from going to school, and keep communities in cycles of poverty. A study by Erasmus University projects that reaching WHO’s 2020 goals for these diseases would generate an estimated $565 billion in productivity gains by 2030.
Many of the tools necessary to control and eliminate NTDs already exist, and the drugs necessary to treat and prevent these diseases are donated by pharmaceutical companies – in 2015 alone, 1.5 billion NTD treatments were donated, largely to African countries. ESPEN will help provide African countries with the technical and financial capacity to use these tools and reach every community in need.
Hon. Prof. Isaac FolorunshoAdewole, Federal Minister of Health, Nigeria, said:“To beat NTDs, we need the right tools and data to help us get treatments to the people who need them. This special project will help governments across Africa provide a healthier future for our people.”
ESPEN will run from 2016 to 2020, and is designed to continue momentum toward the control and elimination targets established by the World Health Organization and endorsed in the London Declaration on NTDs in January 2012. In 2014, two dozen African countries committed to strengthen their commitment to NTDs under the Addis Ababa Commitment on NTDs.
The launch of ESPEN took place at an event on the side lines of the 69th Annual World Health Assembly in Geneva.