International leaders started pledging to and embracing the Kigali Proclamation for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) early in the year. The proclamation is a strong commitment aimed at galvanizing the political resolve, community engagement, financial means, and personal action needed to eradicate NTDs.
NTDs are a category of 20 illnesses that include elephantiasis, leprosy, river blindness, rabies, and trachoma. They affect about 1.7 billion people globally, with Africa accounting for 35% of those affected. However, even though these diseases cripple, disfigure, and sometimes kill people, they receive significantly less consideration than other ailments, because they largely affect the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.
Tanzania is one of the countries most affected by NTDs. 50% of the population – nearly 29 million people – need treatment and medical care for at least one NTD, with 19 million children in danger of intestinal worms.
NTDs have catastrophic consequences, and they adversely impact women and girls since high-risk practices like washing clothing in streams are commonplace in their everyday lives, rendering them more susceptible to such illnesses. They are unable to come to school, work, or look after themselves or their households when this occurs.
Even if women and girls prevent becoming ill, they may be asked to abandon their jobs or quit school to tend to a relative who has an NTD. For women and girls, this could also exacerbate social shame, loneliness, and mental health challenges. Gender equality benchmarks in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be met by ramping up NTD initiatives.
The Kigali Declaration’s primary priority is to “ensure that the respondents afflicted by NTDs are at the heart of NTD initiatives and judgment processes, especially women and girls, disabled people, and minority as well as marginalized communities.” Tanzanians will indeed be capable of achieving progress towards fair access to decent critical healthcare coverage for all if they engage in this integrated approach.
On the other hand, NTDs have an impact that goes beyond vilification and mental health. The financial consequences of NTDs in endemic regions can bind households in impoverished cycles. Billions of dollars are spent on addressing NTDs while people’s earnings are squandered as a result of their inability to labor due to illness or the need to provide for somebody who is.
To address NTDs, a significant financial commitment is required to ensure long-term access to necessary health treatments and adequate monitoring. However, a lack of resources and competing objectives have hampered attempts to address NTDs, slowing progress toward extermination, elimination, and management.
Tanzania made headway in the battle against NTDs despite difficulties. The number of districts in the province where lymphatic filariasis, often known as elephantiasis, requires preventive therapy has decreased from 119 in 2004 to 8 in 2021. In addition, the number of districts that needed trachoma prevention treatments has decreased from 71 in 2012 to 9 in the year 2021.
Trachoma is the primary infectious cause of preventable blindness. During the same period, the number of people who needed trachoma surgery decreased from 167,000 to 27,000 people. These are outstanding accomplishments that have put Tanzania on the path to eliminating both illnesses.
Tanzania’s achievement in the battle against NTDs is part of a larger trend. So far, 46 nations have eliminated at least one NTD, and 600 million people are no longer in need of NTD therapy. Infection rates for diseases like leprosy, Guinea worm disease, and sleeping sickness, which have afflicted humanity for generations, are at an all-time minimum.
While such patterns suggest that NTDs can be eradicated, there is still considerable work to be done. Heads of government, in particular, must take control of the project, provide their support for the purpose, and devote the political and monetary resources necessary to go through with it.
Tanzania is glad to have embraced the Kigali Proclamation on NTDs as a powerful tool for achieving this aim. Tanzania is displaying its commitment to putting a stop to NTDs. Other nations in Africa and worldwide with endemic NTDs should follow this example and sign the Proclamation at the Kigali Summit, allowing governments to eliminate both NTDs and malaria.
Getting rid of NTDs will change the lives of countless people all around the world. International leaders now have the motivation and direction they need to guarantee that the next generation is devoid of these ailments.