By Francis Emorut and Violet Nabatanzi
Over 11 million Ugandans are suffering from Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and if not treated some may lead to death.
This was revealed by the national coordinator of NTDs, Dr. Edridah Tukahebwa during the launch of the country’s master plan for elimination of NTDs by 2020.
The event took place at Lake Victoria Primary School in Entebbe on Saturday.
Tukahebwa, who is also the assistant commissioner health services (vector control) in the ministry of health, disclosed that 2m Ugandans are infected with Bilharzia in 63 districts out of 112 in the country.
She said 4.8m are suffering from Elephantiasis in 54 districts while 4m are infected with River blindness in 37 districts and 1m are suffering from Trachoma in 36 districts.
The commissioner informed the audience that globally NTDs have affected over 1b people and half of this is from Africa.
Tukahebwa listed River blindness, Bilharzia, Elephantiasis, Trachoma, Sleeping-Sickness, and worms as neglected diseases. Others are jiggers, plague, rabies, Buruli Ulcer and Kal azar.
She explained to the guests that NTDs are mainly transmitted by vectors.
She pointed out that the most affected people are from rural and urban poor.
“Neglected diseases affect the poor rural and some urban communities mostly with poor sanitary conditions,” she said.
She said NTDs are categorised into two groups namely; those that can be controlled or eliminated by mass treatment of affected communities and these include River-blindness, Bilharzia, worms, Elephantiasis and Trachoma.
The other type are those that can’t be massively treated in communities and are handled in health facilities which are sleeping sickness, Buruli Ulcer, Rabies, plague, jiggers, leprosy, Guinea worms and Kal azar.
She explained that the effect of NTDs may lead to chronic ill health such as disability, deformity, blindness, retarded physical or mental growth.
She said the neglected diseases affect the socio-economic productivity of communities and academic performance in children which impact on the economic growth of the country.
“If not treated some NTDs may lead to death,” she said.
The minister of health, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, urged development partners to support the elimination of NTDs by 2020.
He appealed to health personnel to give information about NTDs to the public so that those who are affected may seek medical help earlier.
The function was attended by WHO officials from Geneva, Pharmaceutical companies and ministry of health officials, Red Cross officials Patriot Club members, scouts and children who were the majority while MPs, traditional and religious leaders boycotted as their tents were instead occupied by a few residents and children.
The tents for exhibition largely remained empty as there were no exhibitors.