Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have joined together to create Africa’s first civil society network for Neglected Tropical Diseases – the Civil Society Says No to NTDs Coalition.
This coalition will provide a network for CSOs to consult and collaborate to maximize their efforts in fighting Neglected Tropical Diseases, particularly around their aim of increasing sustainable funding for NTD control programs.
The new civil society coalition was formed to enable member CSOs to take NTD control and elimination into their own hands to save millions of lives against these diseases.
Founding members of the Civil Society Say No to NTDs Coalition include: Speak Up Africa, Alliance Nationale des Jeunes pour la Santé de la Reproduction et de la Planification Familiale (ANJ-SR-pf), Environnement, Communautés, Santé et Sécurité (ECOSS), Hope for African Children Initiative (HACI), Contribution au Développement Rural (CDR), Union pour le Développement et la Coopération (UDEC), and Jeunesse Secours and Alliance des Femmes pour l’Égalité et le Genre en Guinée (AFEGGUI). The coalition is open to all civil society organisations.
Several key objectives for the coalition have been established, including creating a connected, integrated, collaborative African CSO network; building CSO capacity to develop and implement locally relevant advocacy strategies; and engaging parliamentarians on policy and budget support for sustainable NTD control and elimination programmes.
To support the newly formed coalition, policy and advocacy tank Speak Up Africa delivered training for all group members.
The training sessions were designed to provide the CSOs with the tools they need to implement effective advocacy programmes and to convey the importance of public health advocacy to accelerate the elimination of NTDs such as trachoma and schistosomiasis, which are some of the most common NTDs in Africa.
Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of tropical infections which are common in low-income populations in developing regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
They are caused by a variety of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, protozoa and helminths. These diseases are contrasted with the big three infectious diseases (HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria), which generally receive greater treatment and research funding.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the effect of these diseases as a group is comparable to malaria and tuberculosis. NTD co-infection can also make HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis more deadly.
There is some debate among the World Health Organisation, Centre for Disease Control and infectious disease experts over which diseases are classified as neglected tropical diseases.
Feasey, a researcher in neglected tropical diseases, notes 13 neglected tropical diseases: ascariasis, Buruli ulcer, Chagas disease, dracunculiasis, hookworm infection, human African trypanosomiasis, Leishmaniasis, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, trachoma, and trichuriasis. Fenwick recognizes 12 “core” neglected tropical diseases: the same as above, excluding hookworm.
In some cases, the treatments are relatively inexpensive. For example, the treatment for schistosomiasis is US$0.20 per child per year.
Nevertheless, in 2010 it was estimated that control of neglected diseases would require funding of between US$2 billion and US$3 billion over the subsequent five to seven years.
Some pharmaceutical companies have committed to donating all the drug therapies required, and mass drug administration (for example, mass deworming) has been successfully accomplished in several countries.
However, preventive measures are often more accessible in the developed world, but not universally available in poorer areas.
Twenty neglected tropical diseases are prioritized by the World Health Organization (WHO), though other organizations define NTDs differently. Chromoblastomycosis and other deep mycoses, scabies and other ectoparasites and snakebite envenoming were added to the list in 2017.
These diseases are common in 149 countries, affecting more than 1.4 billion people (including more than 500 million children) and costing developing economies billions of dollars every year.
They resulted in 142,000 deaths in 2013—down from 204,000 deaths in 1990. Of these 20, two were targeted for eradication (dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease) by 2015 and yaws by 2020), and four for elimination (blinding trachoma, human African trypanosomiasis, leprosy and lymphatic filariasis by 2020).
Yacine Djibo, Founder at Speak Up Africa said: “The elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases will require the involvement and commitment of all levels of society, which is why the formation of the Civil Society Says No to NTD Coalition is such an important step towards reaching our end goal of raising NTDs high on the public health agenda of African countries.
“This network will enable CSOs to collaborate, exchange their expertise on NTD-related issues and amplify their voices to truly drive change. We look forward to seeing what can be achieved when we work together even more closely.”