Malawi has been ranked second among 49 African countries that are meeting targets to eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
A scorecard by Uniting to Combat NTDS published on the website www.unitedtocombatntds.org, shows Malawi is second after eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), and followed by Mali in the top three, outperforming richer countries on the continent such as Botswana and South Africa.
NTDs are a group of parasitic and bacterial infectious diseases that affect over 1.6 billion of the world’s most poor people, including 875 million children. In Africa alone, the diseases affect over 600 million people, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The analysis by Uniting to Combat NTDs, released during the two-day 32nd Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) General Assembly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that started on Sunday, looked at the five most common NTDs in Africa: trachoma, the leading cause of blindness; intestinal worms that cause stunting of children; elephantiasis, which is spread by mosquitoes; bilharzia and river blindness.
The Kingdom of eSwatini comes top of the chart with 92 percent of the population at risk on treatment. Malawi is second with 91 percent of the population on treatment and Mali is third with 90 percent.
Middle-income countries such as South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Botswana were all ranked in the bottom third of the scorecard.
In January 2018, Uniting to Combat NTDs announced that its annual scorecard would put NTDs alongside malaria and maternal and child health as top health priorities for the African continent.
“Because some NTDs are transmitted in the same manner as malaria, and shared community distributions platforms are used for both malaria and NTDs, [the organisation] has chosen to include NTDs in its scorecard,” the statement observed.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango said at the time that the ministry is doing well on NTDs elimination.
“The main strategy is mass drug administration in line with WHO guidelines. We have eliminated elephantiasis. For 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,” he said.
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.