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Uganda to eliminate Tropical Neglected Diseases by 2020

By Hope Mafaranga

Added 6th June 2019 04:25 PM

Speaking at a side event during the Women Deliver Conference at Vancouver Convention Center in Canada on Wednesday, Opendi said Trachoma is the leading infectious cause of blindness in Uganda, which is caused by a bacterium.

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Speaking at a side event during the Women Deliver Conference at Vancouver Convention Center in Canada on Wednesday, Opendi said Trachoma is the leading infectious cause of blindness in Uganda, which is caused by a bacterium.

Sarah Opendi (right) chats with participants. Photo by Hoep Mafaranga

The State Minister of Health for General Duties, Sarah Opendi, has said Uganda will be free from Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) by 2020.

Opendi said 37 districts have attained the targeted disease elimination status and mass treatment was stopped.

According to World Health Organisation, NTDs are a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries.

The diseases affect more than one billion people and cost developing economies billions of dollars every year.

 Populations living in poverty, without adequate sanitation and in close contact with infectious vectors and domestic animals and livestock are those worst affected.

“In December 2018, the district of Moroto, Nakapiripirit and Nabilatuk conducted their last round of mass treatment and the ministry is the process of conducting final impact assessment and this will mark the end of treatment in the country,” Opendi said.

Speaking at a side event during the Women Deliver Conference at Vancouver Convention Center in Canada on Wednesday, Opendi said Trachoma is the leading infectious cause of blindness in Uganda, which is caused by a bacterium.

She said 11 million people in Uganda were at risk of being infected, yet Trachoma can be prevented by treating everyone living in the affected districts and performing surgeries.

She also said Uganda is paying keen interest to refugees from South Sudan and every refugee is routinely examined and educated on hygiene to avoid the reoccurrence of the disease that have been eliminated in 37 districts.

She mentioned the most affected districts as Kotido, Moroto, Abim, Napak, Kaabong, Nakapiripirit, Amudat, Jinja, Mayuge, Iganga, Bugir, Namayingo, Namutumba and Kaliro.

Others are Kamuli, Luuka, Butebo, Budaka, Buyende, Lira, Alebtong, Otuke, Dokolo, Oyam, Amolatar, Gulu, Omoro, Amuru, Nwoya, Kitgum, Lamwo, Pader, Agago, Buliisa, Masindi, Kiryandongo, Nebbi, Zombo and Adjuman.

She said the most common NTDS in Uganda as Bilharzia, River Blindness, Trachoma, worms, sleeping sickness, Kala Azar, Elephantiasis.

The minister said Uganda has applied for certification of trachoma elimination from the World Health Organisation, which will see the country achieve a free country of Trachoma.

Opendi said the Ugandan government through the ministry of health runs an integrated programme with ministries of agriculture, local government and education for control and elimination of these diseases.

“Trachoma, River Blindness, Elephantiasis and Sleeping Sickness are targeted for elimination by 2013 while the target for Bilharzia and Worms is under control and reduce the disease burden,” she said.

She said Uganda is also on the right track to eliminate elephantiasis which was originally in 53 districts protecting 16,491,275 people from acquiring the disease.

“This year, the remaining six districts have been treated and will be assessed in 2010. We anticipant that they will stop treatment,” she said.

She said the government has been to achieve a huge milestone in eliminating NTDs because of the Village Health Teams that have been involved in identifying the affected people and training their caregivers.

Dr. Mwele Malacela the Director of Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases at World Health Organisation said almost 56 million of girls and women are affected by bilharzia in sub-Sahara Africa, while 220 million in the world need preventive measure of which 90 percent live in Africa.

Sika Bella Kabore the Burkina Faso First Lady said   poor communities who have specific public health needs are affected by the NTDs that are not covered by standard national packages of health and policies.

 She called for an intensity in prevention saying the number is worrying and must be addressed.

The First Lady also said people especially women and women who live with NTDS are also at risk of other diseases like HIV / AIDS among others.

“Throughout their lives women and children are disproportionately affected by NTDS, they battle will intestinal worms which affected their ability to learn and enjoy childhood,” she said.

“Girls are not treated of bilharzia, in childhood, will have an increased risk of anemia due to menstruation and they will also face challenge after becoming pregnant,” she said.

Natasha Wang Mwansa a younger leader of Women Deliver asked governments to increase funding for NTDs and involve young people in sensitasation and prevention of NTDs.

“Let us face it, money is tough to come nowadays. When we have limited resources we need to ask the difficult question of how we can maximize the reach of each dollar and the impact of NTDs on the wellbeing of women and girls,” she said.

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