Dr Joyce Rosalind Aryee, National Ambassador of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) Programme, of Ghana Health Service (GHS), says neglected dangerous diseases could reinforce the cycle of poverty among the world’s disadvantaged populations.
This, she said, is because such neglected diseases tend to diminish the quality of life and opportunities to succeed among the population.
“While NTDs rarely lead to death, they can cause significant disability that persists for a lifetime including blindness and disfigurement. Sufferers miss school, are unable to work or are too embarrassed to seek medical care due to stigma,” she said.
Dr Aryee said this at a media seminar on the effort of the GHS to prevent, control and eliminate key NTDs with the view of having informed media support to achieve its objectives.
She said among the NTDs are Lymphatic Filariasis (elephantiasis), Onchocerciasis (river blindness), Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia), Soil Transmitted Helminthiasis (intestinal worms), Trachoma, Buruli ulcer, Yaws, and Leprosy.
Ds Aryee said these diseases are a group of tropical infections which are especially common in low income populations in developing regions of Africa, Asia and the Americas, where access to potable water, sanitation and healthcare are substandard.
In Ghana the diseases are mostly found in the Northern, Upper East and Western Regions.
She said more than one billion people, approximately one-sixth of the world’s population suffer from at least one NTD according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
She explained that NTDs are called “neglected” because they generally afflict the world’s poor and politically marginalised; and historically have not received as much attention in international public health circles as other diseases.
The Ambassador noted that 17 neglected tropical diseases are prioritised by the WHO are common in 149 countries, affecting more than 1.4 billion people including more than 50 million children and costing developing economies billions of dollars every year.
“When it comes to elephantiasis, there are approximately 120 million individuals infected and 40 million with deformities worldwide and it is endemic to all the regions in Ghana with the exception of Ashanti and Volta.”
Dr Aryee also identified NTDs as ones that cost the country millions of dollars in terms of health care and lost worker productivity through absenteeism, disability and shortened life spans.
She also pointed out stigmatisation as one of the social impact of NTDs citing elephantiasis as one of the causes of severe deformities that could result in denial of marriage and inability to work.
She indicated that although the country has much work to do with regards to eradication, elimination and control of the diseases, there have been some monumental gains.
“Through the persistent annual mass drug administration (MDA), transmission of elephantiasis has been broken in 69 out of 98 endemic districts in the country therefore, the need for more mass drug administrations in the districts”.
Dr Benjamin Kofi Marfo, Deputy Programme Manager, NTDs said the good thing about existence of the elephantiasis in the country is that 98 districts with cases of the disease have been reduced to 22.
He said MDA started in 2001 and as at 2015, 69 districts have successfully reduced the disease and stopped treatment and currently, 29 districts have been receiving treatment.
“Elephantiasis is earmarked for elimination by 2020 and therefore, there must be the need to accelerate effort towards its elimination by all,” he said. GNA