National Symposium on Neglected Tropical Diseases in Ethiopia
It is an honor for me to represent the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) commitment to fight Neglected Tropical Diseases at this important national symposium appropriately themed “End the neglect, Integrate, Scale-up, and Sustain.”
As we know, neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, are a group of parasitic and bacterial diseases that infect more than one billion people around the world living on less than US$2 a day. The majority of these people live in countries of Africa and Asia. NTDs thrive where access to clean water and sanitation are limited.
These diseases cause malnutrition and anemia, pregnancy complications, blindness, disfigurement, and delays to physical and cognitive growth among children, perpetuating the poverty of those they infect by hindering their productivity. NTDs rob valuable human resources from community development and national progress.
Ethiopia is one of the countries with the highest burden of NTDs, following Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ethiopia suffers 34% and 25% of the estimated burden of Trachoma and Schistosomiasis in sub-Saharan Africa, respectively. Thus, NTDs continue to debilitate, deform, and kill a sizeable proportion of the Ethiopian population either as stand-alone infections or as co-infections with major diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
This national symposium and the launch of the NTD master plan demonstrates the Government of Ethiopia’s commitment to controlling NTDs, brings enhanced awareness and discussion on this important topic, and accelerates our collective determination to reduce, and ultimately eliminate NTDs in this decade.
Some initial headway has been made and there is reason to be optimistic. Ethiopia achieved the leprosy elimination target of one case per 10,000 more than ten years ago, and the guinea worm eradication is in its final phase. With more interventions and concerted efforts from the government and the development community in eliminating NTDs, the burden will further decrease.
Globally, USAID has been at the forefront of the large-scale implementation of integrated treatment programs for NTDs and delivers donated medicines from pharmaceutical corporations. Seven of ten NTDs–can be controlled and treated through targeted mass drug administration providing safe and effective drugs to all individuals in an affected community. On January 30, 2012, in London, 13 pharmaceutical companies, the U.S., U.K., and U.A.E governments, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, and other global health organizations announced a new, coordinated push to accelerate progress toward eliminating or controlling 10 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2020.
Here in Ethiopia, I am pleased that USAID supports this symposium through its new global NTD flagship “Envision Project”, and through this new project will provide technical expertise to support the prevention, control, and elimination of NTDs in Ethiopia.
In order to achieve success and a rapid scale-up of control activities, USAID emphasizes that interventions become an integral part of existing health system strategies. Strong local capacity is also key. For this reason, USAID will sustain its support and long partnership with the Government of Ethiopia to reduce sickness and death from preventable and curable diseases through an integrated health system approach.
USAID also coordinates closely with drug donation programs to ensure the availability of necessary medical supplies, and, through our implementing partners, USAID works with the Ministry of Health to build its capacity which will enable it to strengthen the NTD control program.
I thank you for providing me this opportunity to express USAID’s commitment to health and well-being in Ethiopia and, specifically to combat NTDs. I would like to recognize the Federal Ministry of Health for its leadership, and all the Regional Health Bureaus, and our donor and implementing partners represented here, for the work they must do to combat NTDs and for their partnership to transform people’s lives.
This symposium is an important milestone on the road to controlling NTDs in Ethiopia and I wish you all fruitful deliberations for the coming three days.
Amasegenallu. Thank you.
Last updated: September 18, 2013