The African Leaders Malaria Alliance (Alma) on Sunday added neglected tropical diseases NTDs to its annual scorecard on disease progress at the 30th African Union Heads of State Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
This is the first time the annual Alma scorecard for accountability and action will reveal progress and gaps across NTDs that affect poor and marginalised communities.
In its report to the summit, Malawi, through the Ministry of Health, noted that the country is doing well on NTDs.
According to a press statement issued by Uniting to Combat NTDs, the scorecard puts NTDs alongside malaria and maternal and child health as top health priorities for the continent.
Reads the statement in part: “Because some NTDs are transmitted in the same manner as malaria, and shared community distributions platforms are used for both malaria and NTDs, Alma has chosen to include NTDs in its scorecard.”
The statement further notes that Malawi has stopped treatment for lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis) and is in the process of being validated by World Health Organisation (WHO).
Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango said in an interview yesterday that the ministry is doing well on NTDs elimination.
“The main strategy is mass drug administration [MDA] in line with WHO guidelines. We have eliminated lymphatic filariasis. For onchocerciasis [river blindness], we are just waiting for an independent confirmation of its elimination. There are also good results for trachoma. Our target is to eliminate it by 2019,” said Malango.
He said the government is working on eliminating schistosomiasis (bilharzia) and trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), which is caused by tsetse flies.
“Trypanosomiasis cases are mainly in Rumphi, Mzimba North, Nkhotakota and Kasungu. We are using various strategies including health promotion and tsete fly traps to contain the disease,” said Malango.
Uniting to Combat NTDs Support Centre director Thoko Elphick-Pooley said in the statement that it is up to political leaders to make NTDs a priority.
In 2014, the Malawi Government and 25 other African countries committed to strengthen their commitment to NTDs under the Addis Ababa Commitment on NTDs.
And in 2016, data developed by Erasmus University, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, indicated that Malawi could save $415 million (about K290.5 billion) between 2011-2030 if it meets the WHO 2020 targets for controlling or eliminating the five most common NTDs.
Uniting to Combat NTDs is a group of organisations committed to achieving WHO’s 2020 goal to control and eliminate 10 NTDs. n