Health ministry to launch strategic plan on neglected tropical diseases
Uganda has so far been able to eliminate the vector that causes river blindness ...
The Ministry of Health will on Thursday launch its strategic plan to eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
NTDs are a group of parasitic and bacterial diseases that cause ill-health and disability but cannot be passed on from one person to another.
They are referred to as neglected because they have been largely wiped out in the developed regions of the world but persist only in the poorest, most marginalized communities and conflict areas in low-income countries.
These diseases affect the most vulnerable people and the poorest communities. Those in Uganda include; elephantiasis and hydroceles, river blindness, sleeping sickness, bilharzia, soil-transmitted helminthiases (these are intestinal worms such as hookworms, roundworms that cause severe anaemia and trachoma), and leprosy.
Dr Alfred Mubangizi, the assistant commissioner vector-borne and neglected tropical diseases at the ministry of health, recently told New Vision that all the districts in Uganda are affected by the NTDs.
“Apart from affecting the health of an individual, they reduce the chances of staying in school, earning a living, and acceptance by families and communities. They lead to chronic and debilitating physical and mental symptoms which threaten 1.6 billion people globally including more than 500,000 million children,” he said.
In a bid to wipe out these diseases in poor countries, WHO outlined six key actions that countries need to take. These include addressing water, sanitation, and household-related factors, reducing environmental risk factors, improving the health of migrating populations, reducing inequity due to social-cultural factors and gender, reducing poverty in NTD endemic populations, and setting up risk assessment and surveillance systems.
Uganda has so far been able to eliminate the vector that causes river blindness and treatment has reached all endemic communities in 40 districts, according to Mubangizi.
He said disease transmission has been interrupted in 27 districts where mass drug administration (MDA) has been stopped, protecting a population of 2.7 million people.
The government has initiated hydrocele surgery and elephantiasis management has been in nine of the 63 districts leading to the reduction of hydrocele in some of these districts to 90%.
“Trachoma which is one of the youngest programmes has made tremendous progress in 50 districts. In Bilharzia and worm control, there had been a significant reduction of the prevalence of the disease to below 10% in several districts compared to when the intervention started in 2003,” he said.
Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the Ministry of Health spokesperson has told New Vision that the strategic plan will be launched by Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the minister of health at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Kampala.