On the sidelines of the 55th African Union extraordinary summit, held in Niamey, Niger national and international leaders joined the “No to NTDs” movement to reduce the burden of neglected tropical diseases in sub-Saharan Africa.
The high-level side event was convened as part of the African Union Summit, by policy and advocacy tank Speak Up Africa, in partnership with the Ministry of Health and First Lady of Niger, H.E Mrs. Aïssata Issoufou.
“After all progress, particularly in countries most heavily burdened with NTDs, depends on strong and consistent country leadership and regional coordination, to ensure that all people, particularly the most vulnerable and marginalized, have access to quality health services and NTD prevention methods.” said the First Lady.
The event provided attending leaders with a platform to assess the progress toward NTD elimination on the continent and learn from best practices for informed decisions on the creation of sustainable partnerships for universal health coverage.
Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of communicable diseases which affect more than 1.5 billion people worldwide, 39% of whom live in Africa. NTDs affect the most vulnerable members of society, and whilst there has been some progress in recent years, attendees at the event emphasized that failing to do more to fight NTDs now, including developing new tools and resources, will have significant consequences for future generations in Africa.
In Niger, NTDs including lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis and trachoma are endemic. A highlight of the event was therefore the formal launch of a new monitoring and accountability tool to help better manage NTD prevention and treatment initiatives in Niger.
Launched by the Government of Niger, the new NTD ‘scorecard’ will measure national and sub-national progress against NTDs, including the number of cases of these diseases reported in each region, the number of interventions supplied to prevent cases of NTDs, and the rate of treatment offered to those affected.
“As we make progress in the fight against NTDs, the momentum presented by universal health coverage is a unique opportunity to harness our synergies to ensure that no one is left behind”. said Dr Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Over 100 participants attended the event including H.E Mrs. Sika Kaboré, First Lady of Burkina Faso, H.E Mrs. Hinda Deby Itno, First Lady of Chad, H.E Mrs. Antoinette Sassou Nguesso, First Lady of Congo and current President of the Organization of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD), the Queen of ESwatini, Dr. Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Abdourahmane Diallo, Executive Director of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, Mrs. Joy Phumaphi, Executive Secretary of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), Dr. Idi Illiassou Mainassara, Minister of Health of Niger, Mrs. Françoise Vanni, External Relations Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.