Réunis autour du Sommet de la Francophonie à Djerba, plusieurs experts francophones ont appelé les leaders et les structures de l’Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie à accélérer la mise en œuvre de leurs engagements pris lors du sommet de Yerevan en 2018. 

Organisée au pavillon du Sénégal sous le thème “Renouveler l’engagement pour lutter contre les MTN en Afrique francophone” la table ronde a réuni des principales parties prenantes des maladies tropicales négligées. Cette table ronde a enregistré la présence de personnalités éminentes notamment Ndioro Ndiaye, Coordonnatrice du Réseau Francophone pour l’Éalité Femme-Homme de l’OIF, Dr. Jean Jannin, Président de la Société Francophone de Médecine Tropicale et Santé Internationale, Professeur Issiaka Sombie, Directeur par intérim de la Direction de la santé publique et de la recherche à l’Organisation Ouest Africaine de la Santé, Docteur Abdellatif Fakhfakh, expert en organisation internationale à la mission permanente des Emirates Arabes Unies auprès des Nations Unis à Genève, Docteur Odry Agbessi, directrice exécutive de l’ONG “Vie Ma Vie”, Madame Hantasoa Fida Cyrille, conseillère diplomatique du Président du Sénat de Madagascar et Monsieur Jacques Krabal le secrétaire général de l’assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, qui a milité pour la démocratisation des vaccins en Afrique. 

Rappelons que parmi les 26 pays de l’Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) en Afrique subsaharienne, où le fardeau des MTNs est particulièrement lourd, plus de 200 millions de personnes, ou à peu près deux sur trois individus, sont à risque de contracter une MTN.

Ndioro Ndiaye, Coordonnatrice du Réseau Francophone pour l’Éalité Femme-Homme de l’OIF, pour raviver le soutien des États membres à la résolution de 2018 dans le contexte de la Déclaration de Kigali. Madame Ndiaye a mis l’accent sur l’importance de partir en action pour activer la résolution adoptée par l’OIF, assurer son suivi et son évolution.

De son côté, Dr. Jean Jannin,Président de la Société Francophone de Médecine tropicale et Santé Internationale, est revenu sur les origines des MTN en soulignant le lien entre la pauvreté, les maladies tropicales négligées et les droits de l’homme notamment les femmes et les enfants. Il a ainsi rappelé l’importance de l’accès aux vaccins et aux médicaments. L’accès aux médicaments des vingts maladies tropicales négligées sont disponibles gratuitement et distribués soit par les extérieurs ou les équipes de l’Organisation Mondiales de la Santé (OMS). Il a confirmé également que l’élimination est faisable, mais en tenant compte de la durabilité, en s’adaptant à l’approche francophone dans la lutte des MTN.

De même, Professeur Issiaka Sombie, Directeur par intérim de la Direction de la santé publique et de la recherche à l’Organisation Ouest Africaine de la Santé, a rappelé de l’importance de tirer des leçons des expériences précédentes pour lutter contre les MTN en mettant l’accent sur l’importance de la recherche pour améliorer les diagnostics.  Des projets de coopération ont d’ailleurs été mis en place dont l’objectif est la restructuration des institutions et la mise en œuvre du traitement sur le terrain. Selon professeur Sombie, l’objectif de son institution est de créer une plateforme régionale et coordonner entre les différentes parties afin de partager les expériences et déduire les leçons nécessaires.

À propos du renforcement politique des pays dans la lutte des MTN, Docteur Abdellatif Fakhfakh, expert en organisation internationale à la mission permanente des Emirates Arabes Unies auprès des Nations Unis à Genève, a souligné le rôle primordial joué par la francophonie afin de sensibiliser les pays de la résolution en tenant compte du rôle des Emirates Arabes Unies en tant que pays observateur. La synergie entre les différents acteurs notamment les partenaires privés est essentielle, a déclaré Dr. Fakhfakh.

Ayant participé à la rédaction et l’adoption de la résolution de lutte contre les MTN,  Madame Hantasoa Fida Cyrille, conseillère diplomatique du Président du Sénat de Madagascar, a souligné l’importance de ce événement pour mesurer l’impact de cette résolution après quatre ans de son adoption, ainsi qu’une opportunité de dresser un bilan des succès et des lacunes dans l’élimination des MTN. Mis à part les conditions de vie et la pauvreté, Madame Cyrille a relevé le changement climatique comme principale facteur affectant la réalisation des objectifs de cette résolution.

Docteur Odry Agbessi, directrice exécutive de l’ONG “Vie Ma Vie”, a également confirmé l’importance de l’appropriation des programmes nationaux selon une approche collaborative, en sortant du cadre médical et en impliquant tous les acteurs de la société civile. 

L’événement a été clôturé par l’annonce et la consolidation des recommandations d’experts qui devront raviver le débat autour de ces maladies évitables et dangereuses et motiver les engagements politiques pour leurs éliminations en Afrique francophone.

Le Programme National de Lutte contre les maladies tropicales négligées (PNLMTN), a organisé, du 26 au 29 septembre à Koudougou, une rencontre d’information et de sensibilisation des Responsables de la Promotion de la Santé (RPS).  Cette rencontre organisée avec l’appui de Speak Up Africa a permis de renforcer les compétences de quarante Responsables de la Promotion de la Santé, acteurs incontournables de la lutte contre les maladies tropicales négligées au Burkina Faso

Sur les 20 maladies tropicales négligées (MTN) classées par l’Organisation Mondiale de la Santé (OMS), 19 sévissent actuellement au Burkina Faso. En 2019, 2,92 millions de personnes ont reçu un traitement contre ces maladies.

Afin d’atteindre l’objectif d’élimination de ces MTN d’ici à 2030 dans le cadre des Objectifs de Développement Durable (ODD), les actions individuelles et collectives des différents acteurs impliquées dans la lutte contre ces maladies doivent être renforcées. 

« Acteurs clés de la sensibilisation et la promotion de la santé au niveau communautaire, l’appui des responsables de la Promotion de la Santé (RPS) est capital pour la mise en œuvre des stratégies additionnelles de sensibilisation et pour l’adhésion des populations aux traitements de masse lors des campagnes de distribution des médicaments pour les 5 MTN à chimiothérapie préventive. Les RPS ont aussi un rôle à jouer pour le renforcement du plaidoyer pour la mobilisation des ressources internes pour soutenir les efforts du gouvernement et des partenaires. »

Mme Sawadogo Christine,
responsable de l’Unité communication du Programme national de lutte contre les MTN du Burkina Faso.  

Au cours de ces trois (03) jours d’échange, les différents chefs d’unités du programme ont renforcé les connaissances et compétences des participants sur les stratégies de lutte, les acquis, les défis et les perspectives de la lutte contre les 5 MTN endémiques au Burkina Faso. Il s’agit de la filariose lymphatique, l’onchocercose, la schistosomiase, les vers intestinaux et le trachome qui sont évitables par la chimio-prévention. La stratégie de lutte contre ces 5 MTN consiste en l’administration de masse de médicaments aux populations vivant dans les zones touchées par ces maladies, durant des campagnes périodiques.

La formation en plaidoyer et communication stratégique fournie par Speak Up Africa a visé à renforcer la collaboration entre les Responsables de la Promotion de la Santé, le programme et ses partenaires afin d’intensifier les efforts de sensibilisation des communautés mais aussi le  plaidoyer pour la priorisation et la mobilisation des ressources pour l’élimination des MTN d’ici à 2030. 

Contrairement aux 3 maladies mortelles que sont le paludisme, le SIDA et la tuberculose, Les MTN figurent dans les priorités de santé mais ne bénéficient pas d’allocation budgétaire adéquate au sein des budgets nationaux.

« À travers cette formation, notre ambition est d’accroître la masse critique d’acteurs engagés pour soutenir les efforts pour l’élimination des MTN en tant que problème de santé publique dans notre pays. Nantis de ces connaissances et surtout des succès et défis à relever, nous avons bon espoir que les nouvelles compétences en plaidoyer et communication stratégiques données aux RPS nous permettront ensemble d’accompagner le gouvernement pour l’atteindre des objectifs du pays sur ce chantier. »

Roukiattou Ouédraogo,
coordonnatrice nationale de Speak Up Africa au Burkina Faso

Ahead of the Kigali Summit of Malaria and NTDs held on the sidelines of the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Speak Up Africa hosted a Twitter chat on “How to eliminate malaria and NTDs in Africa”. The discussion highlighted the work of civil society organizations involved in the March to Kigali campaign and made a case for the need to further integrate NTDs and Malaria programming into health services.

Yacine Djibo, Executive Director of Speak Up Africa, joined civil society, global health and business leaders Salomon Dopavogui, Directeur de Jeunesse Secours; Moses Sorie Kodah, Director of NAYE; Zadok Kwame Gyesi, Journalist, Graphic Online; Dr. Odry Fifonsi Agbessi, Director, Via-Me and Elisa Desbordes-Cisse, COO, Ecobank Foundation. Together, they further articulated the need to reaffirm commitments to end these entirely preventable and treatable diseases causing untold suffering and misery to billions of people.

With the deadline of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) fast approaching, panelists suggested there was a need for more effective partnerships between governments, the civil society and the private sector. Furthermore, they called for the replenishment of the Global Fund and urged the government to increase spending and commitments towards an integrated approach to malaria and NTD elimination.

Zadok Kwesi tweeted :

« We should combine efforts across sectors, countries and expertise. The March to Kigali campaign builds on #NotoNTDs & #ZeroMalariaStartswithMe campaigns to collectively encourage the commitment needed to eliminate #Malaria & #NTDs by the SDGs deadline in 2030. »

Yacine Djibo tweeted :

« The Kigali Summit is a unique opportunity for global leaders to accelerate action to eliminate malaria and NTDs. By replenishing the Global Fund by a minimum of US$ 18 billion, it is projected that countries and partners can reduce malaria deaths by 62%. »

During the Twitter chat, panelists explained how ongoing activities across Guinea, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Benin, Niger, and Uganda, were contributing to eliminating malaria and NTDs. These activities ranged from community engagements and celebrity campaigns to raising awareness and training youth leaders to contribute to health advocacy.

Elisa Desbordes-Cisse tweeted :

« We launched the Zero Malaria Business Initiative where we contributed US$ 120,000 in Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Senegal and Uganda. We continue encouraging other private sector companies to join this initiative ».

Salomon Dopavogui tweeted :

« Guinea is endemic to 8 NTDs and malaria. To fight against these scourges, which are an obstacle to well-being, education and economic development, we necessarily put more emphasis on the mass distribution of drugs and mosquito nets. »

The panel called for more significant initiatives to ensure these diseases do not burden future generations, such as taking gender-inclusive approaches and involving young people to lead the charge in eliminating these diseases. 

Dr. Odry Fifonsi Agbessi tweeted :

« We must take an inclusive approach to identify, implement, monitor and evaluate malaria and NTD projects and programs while taking into account gender and the specific needs of the population (people with reduced mobility, young men and women and the elderly. »

Moses Sorie Kodah tweeted

« Young people are the change-makers who can accelerate action to eliminate #malaria & #NTDs. We train youth advocates & under the #MalariaNoMore campaign work with leading artists in Sierra Leone to produce music to raise awareness about malaria. »

Every two minutes, an African child dies from malaria. The continent accounts for over 90% of global malaria deaths and over 40 per cent of the global burden of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). The Kigali Summit is a historic opportunity for world leaders to reaffirm commitments to end malaria and NTDs.

The March to Kigali, a campaign led by a group of like-minded civil society organizations from across Africa and supported by Speak Up Africa has garnered the engagement of over 300 signatories. The campaign urges global leaders to prioritize the elimination of malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) at the Kigali summit, which takes place today, alongside the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

With these diseases disproportionately affecting the vulnerable members of society and adversely impacting Africa’s economic and social development, the March to Kigali campaign garners global attention to accelerate action to end malaria and NTDs on the continent. 

Every two minutes, an African child dies from malaria. The continent accounts for over 90% of global malaria deaths and over 40 per cent of the global burden of NTDs is in Africa. Efforts to eliminate these diseases are stifled by inadequate health systems and limited programme funding coupled with less attention and prioritization on the global and regional stage. 

This Kigali Summit presents a historic opportunity for world leaders to reaffirm commitments to end these diseases and their untold suffering and misery on billions of people. Through the March to Kigali campaign, we call for domestic resource mobilization for increased and sustained resources aligned with the co-financing requirements of The Global Fund amounting to US$18 billion required to get the world back on track toward building resilient and sustainable systems for health.

« The March to Kigali campaign acknowledges the strength of the Kigali Summit in convening key decision-makers to bring united global attention to malaria and NTDs. These diseases are entirely treatable and preventable but are still a major obstacle to economic and social development in Africa, affecting the most marginalized populations. »

Yacine Djibo, Founder and Executive Director of Speak Up Africa.

The campaign also calls for a renewed focus on integrating malaria and NTDs control and elimination. Multi-disease solutions can potentially improve healthcare system financing efficiencies with existing integration opportunities to benchmark on. For example, Senegal’s National Malaria and Control Program rationalize efforts and costs by using its platform to collect data on both diseases.

The March to Kigali campaign builds on the existing partnerships and platforms of the « No To NTDs », and « Zero Malaria Starts with Me » campaigns and aims to secure commitments from national and sub-national stakeholders to end these epidemics by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It includes political engagement, private sector engagement, civil society, and youth engagement. Civil society organizations (CSOs) from across Guinea, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Benin, and Niger are leading the charge by increasing public awareness and political engagement in eliminating malaria and NTDs. 

In Sierra Leone, twelve leading recording artists released « Malaria e Don Wan Dae Na Mi Han », a music video about malaria prevention and treatment. Community health workers in Sierra Leone also received training to be the first line of defense against these diseases, and over 100,000 malaria rapid testing kits were distributed in Burkina Faso. Additionally, the through « Lines of Impact », initiative the campaign works with African journalists from Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo to develop quality articles on NTDs and malaria.

« Neglected tropical diseases received little attention in the media. Mass media can play a huge role in disseminating information, influencing public behavior, to ultimately curtail the spread of disease… »

Dr Charity Binka, The Executive Secretary of the African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN) and country lead of the March to Kigali campaign in Ghana.

More than 300 civil society and local organizations, media outlets, and individuals across the continent have signed the ‘March to Kigali’ call to action, demonstrating the incredible commitment at the country and continental level to ending these diseases.

23 June 2022 (Kigali, Rwanda)

By Yacine Djibo, founder and executive director of Speak Up Africa, a nonprofit based in Dakar, Senegal, focused on public health and development in Africa.

“…In a globalized world, you cannot live in isolation; all the problems and solutions are interconnected …”

Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize winner

Health challenges, like many others cannot be addressed in isolation because they are complex and interlinked, not only in themselves but with social and economic problems. Throughout my career in Global Health, I have seen that we often focus efforts on individual disease approaches. Yet, there is much to be gained from a multi-disease approach. The notion that health challenges can be addressed in separate silos can no longer be entertained.

Let’s take malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). Both diseases have been with us for too long with debilitating and devastating effects. Despite good progress in scaling up interventions and novel tools, billions of people around the world continue to suffer and die from both diseases – which are entirely preventable and treatable.

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of 20 conditions affecting 1.5 billion people. 39% of the burden is in Africa, with 79% of African countries being co-endemic for at least 5 NTDs. Africa also carries the heaviest malaria burden, accounting for approximately 95% of all malaria cases and 96% of all deaths in 2020. About 80% of deaths in the region are among children under five years of age. We lose one child every two minutes to malaria.

The challenge is how to make better progress on tackling malaria and NTDs together. The answers require integrating the tools for detection and elimination. Multi-disease approaches are known to work; they also encourage significant efficiencies, value for money and cost rationalization in the healthcare system. And when we think of healthcare systems across the continent – systems in which the share of global health expenditure is less than 1% while accounting for 25% of the world’s disease burden – taking a multi-disease approach seems logical. Furthermore, reducing the risk of both diseases transmission can be achieved through an integrated approach, “One health” supporting human, animal and environmental development.

The great news is that this solution is within reach. Health experts acknowledge that opportunities exist for integration or convergence of malaria and NTD interventions. Therefore, the Kigali Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), which takes place alongside the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda this week, presents a defining moment to secure political support and investment in integrating malaria and NTDs programs, as well as broader healthcare and cross-sectoral programmes.

Using this summit to firm up existing commitments and provide a framework for endemic countries to work from will be crucial. Enhanced integration of malaria and NTDs programs across sectors will unlock the potential of a safer, healthier, more equitable world for everyone.

Senegal, my home country, has made efforts to integrate malaria and NTDs. To improve the effectiveness and efficiency of implementing disease control interventions, Senegal has integrated NTDs and malaria data collection and review. The National Neglected Tropical Disease Control Program (NNTDCP) integrated the quarterly reviews organised by the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) with all health districts and medical regions. Its success lies in the government’s political will to progressively integrate malaria-NTD data and to put in place an official endorsement and formal agreement for the integration of these services.  

Ownership of the project at the ministry level is done through an agreement at the central and decentralized levels. And the commitment of technicians and partners in the sector to carry out the objectives to achieve the integrated review at the national level. When we bring people and resources together, a new opportunity for empowerment and ownership emerges, which makes the Senegal case study different.

Senegal’s malaria-NTD project is already scaling up by integrating the efforts planned for malaria, NTDs and tuberculosis. Lessons learned from this integration have led to the reflection on the development of integrated vector control and mass campaigns implemented by the programmes (Mass Drug Distribution and Chemoprevention of Seasonal Malaria).

While the Kigali Summit is an opportunity to discuss how to turn this broad set of commitments into sustainable action, we must also ensure adequate funding to continue tackling these diseases. We must ensure the Global Fund is fully replenished with a minimum of 18 billion USD.  With this funding, it is projected that countries and partners can reduce malaria deaths by 62%. National governments also need to do more by strengthening the financial sustainability of malaria and NTD programmes to improve the long-term management and elimination of these diseases. And finally, we need to be more inclusive in identifying, implementing, monitoring and evaluating NTD and malaria projects and programs, considering gender aspects and the specific needs of all of the population, people with reduced mobility, women, men, young people, senior citizens. This can be done by effectively implementing primary health care in all endemic countries. 

Diseases do not respect national borders, so countries must work together to control and eliminate infectious health threats like malaria and NTDs. Regional Economic communities should ensure effective cross borders interventions. We must all work together because effective collaboration is critical to scaling up interventions. Many endemic countries are developing and implementing country-specific programmes to end malaria and NTDs.

The March to Kigali campaign is a multi-country approach that brought together like-minded civil society organizations in the lead up to the Kigali Summit to push for more action on NTDs and malaria. The more than 300 signatures from across civil society, private sector, media organisations and individuals is evident of the commitment to leave no one behind in the pursuit to integrate malaria and NTD programs and to secure funding to eliminate these entirely preventable and treatable diseases.

An open letter by the March to Kigali campaign, a civil society coalition backed by over 300 supporters, urges global leaders at the Kigali Summit on malaria and NTDs, to accelerate efforts to eliminate these entirely treatable and preventable diseases. With less than 10 years left to achieve the global sustainable development goals (SDGs), the time is now.

Health systems across Africa face significant setbacks, including inadequate human resources, poor resource allocation to health, poor maintenance of healthcare system infrastructure and lack of political will. These challenges disproportionately affect the most vulnerable members of our society and are a significant obstacle to Africa’s economic and social development. The case of malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) exacerbates such challenges. But limited attention and global health prioritization continue to stifle efforts to eliminate these treatable and preventable diseases today. 

Health data shows Africa accounts for over 40% of the global burden for NTDs, which affect 1.5 billion people worldwide. When it comes to malaria, the continent also accounts for over 90% of global malaria deaths. Furthermore, 79% of African countries are co-endemic for at least 5 NTDs, a diverse group of 20 conditions. Malaria kills an African child every two minutes, with at least 80% of deaths amongst children under five. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened this dire situation, with WHO attributing more malaria cases and deaths in 2020 on the continent due to the pandemic’s disruptions and further strain on health systems. These two diseases can also reverse past gains in controlling other diseases like AIDS and tuberculosis, which are already a massive burden to the continent.

Against this backdrop, we launched the March to Kigali campaign with the support of Speak Up Africa on World Health Day in March 2021. This campaign, led by like-minded civil society organizations across Africa, and supported by over 300 more civil society organizations, media houses, and individuals, demand that our leaders prioritize the elimination of malaria and NTDs. This call-for-action is within the context of the Kigali summit on Malaria and NTDs taking place alongside the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on 23 June 2022.

The March to Kigali aims to stimulate political, private sector, civil society, and youth engagement and secure commitments from national and sub-national stakeholders to end these treatable diseases by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Furthermore, we want to see the successful replenishment of US$18 billion for the Global Fund to get the world back on track to building resilient and sustainable systems. 

Since these diseases impact everyone in Africa, the March to Kigali campaign also targets non-Commonwealth countries in Africa, such as Guinea, Senegal, Benin, and Burkina Faso. The pan-African campaign grew organically from the existing partnerships and platforms of the « No to NTDs » and « Zero Malaria Starts with Me » movements, all aimed at ending the adverse effects of these treatable diseases on the continent. 

Organizations across the continent have made incredible strides in increasing public awareness and engagement on malaria and NTDs by bringing communities together for collective action and mobilizing society to articulate demands and voice concerns at local, national, regional and international levels. Additionally, continental-wide activities such as media campaigns, workshops and training for health workers, and donation of malaria rapid testing kits have provided an opportunity to garner local and global attention to accelerate action to end these preventable and treatable diseases across Africa. 

However, with less than ten years left to achieve the SDGs, we believe the time is now for global leaders at the Kigali Summit to commit to and accelerate action to eliminate malaria and NTDs and prioritize domestic resource mobilization to achieve 2030 WHO NTD Roadmap on NTDs.

We firmly believe that accelerated actions should also focus on integrating malaria and NTDs control and elimination programs and initiatives. Amid the various strains on our health systems, multi-disease solutions can improve the efficiencies in healthcare systems financing on the continent, with opportunities for integration or convergence interventions already existing. In West Africa, Senegal’s National Malaria Control Program demonstrates this integration by rationalizing efforts and costs to collect data on NTDs and malaria. 

We make it to the Kigali Summit after 13 months, with the unwavering support of over 300 civil society organizations and individuals who have also signed the « March to Kigali » campaign call-to-action to prioritize the fight to slow and prevent the spread of NTDs and malaria in Africa. We call on governments, civil society organizations and the private sector to work to implement all these necessary actions to protect Africans from NTDs and malaria.


Signed

The West Africa Health Organization (WAHO) and Speak Up Africa signed a partnership agreement to foster work to accelerate the control and elimination of preventable Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and malaria, endemic in the ECOWAS region and strengthen regional advocacy for the local production of vaccines, diagnostic including research and development and market access.  

The agreement, in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), formalizes the mutual interaction and strengthens the existing relationship between WAHO and Speak Up Africa at strategic and regional levels. Both actors will focus on supporting the operationalization of the West Africa resolution on NTDs at regional and national levels, joint advocacy initiatives with the aimof promoting NTD elimination such as the Speak Up Africa’s “No to NTD” movement, cross border interventions. The agreement also seeks to drive the prioritization of the One Health agenda, the promotion of joint South to South malaria and NTD initiatives within the ECOWAS region as well as support regional advocacy for the operationalization of the African Medicines Agency (AMA), the Accra  UHC Declaration, and finally collaborate on high level advocacy initiatives on local production of drugs, vaccines, and other essential medicines. 

WAHO and Speak Up Africa have a shared objective of achieving the regional public health agenda which including cross cutting issues such as gender, social inclusion and increased accountability. This MoU provides for continued strengthening of future cooperation between WAHO and Speak Up Africa in achieving common goals that will support the elimination of NTDs and Malaria as well as promote universal access to medicines in West African countries. 

« This agreement will help WAHO move closer to our public health goals, especially those pertaining to NTDs, Malaria and the regional pharmaceutical sector. We look forward to pursuing our collaboration with Speak Up Africa to improve and protect policies, which enhance the health of our people. »

Stanley Okolo, Director General of WAHO

« I welcome this important initiative which formalizes and strengthens the existing relationship between WAHO and Speak Up Africa. We are committed to ensure strong advocacy at regional level to support major health achievement in the West Africa Region. I look forward to continuing to build on our constructive co-operation in the interest of enhancing resilient and strong health system that are the basis of disease elimination. »

Yacine Djibo, Executive Director of Speak Up Africa

Wednesday 25 May 2022, Abidjan – One month before the Kigali Summit on Neglected Tropical Diseases and Malaria, a workshop was held in Abidjan to increase the synergy between actors involved in the fight against malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in Côte d’Ivoire.

Hosted by ASAPSU (Association de Soutien à l’Autopromotion Sanitaire Urbaine – Association supporting the self promotion of urban hygiene) this workshop brought together several key stakeholders including representatives from Save The Children, ROLPCI (Réseau des organisations de lutte contre le paludisme en Côte d’Ivoire – Network of Organisations Fighting Malaria in Côte d’Ivoire), CGECI (la Confédération Générale des Entreprises de Côte d’Ivoire – General Confederation of Enterprises of Côte d’Ivoire), the Côte d’Ivoire National Assembly and Ministry of Health to coordinate partner actions and strengthen the mobilisation of funds for the fight against these preventable diseases.

On 7 April 2021, a group of civil society organisations from several West African countries, together with the non-profit organisation Speak Up Africa, launched the March to Kigali campaign. It builds on the existing partnerships and platforms of the “Say No to NTDs” and “Zero Malaria Starts with Me” campaigns, and aims to foster the commitments needed to achieve the elimination of these diseases by 2030, as targeted by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and malaria disproportionately affect the poorest populations and are a major impediment to economic and social development internationally. Globally, 1.5 billion people suffer from NTDs, 39% of them in Africa, and at least 5 NTDs are co-endemic in 79% of African countries. In terms of malaria, the number of cases in 2020 was estimated at 241 million and the number of deaths at 627,000, 95% of those in Africa, with 80% of mortality in children under five. 

During the first panel, the Honourable Charles Lopez, representing the Côte d’Ivoire National Assembly explained that there is no specific law on malaria and NTDs, but that in 2019 a law on the orientation of health policy was adopted to help set up infrastructures tailored to the needs of communities.

The second panel, moderated by Dr Kassi Manassé of Save the Children and Mr Agui Zadi of ROLPCI, highlighted the difficulties encountered by stakeholders in the fight against malaria and NTDs. For Dr Kassi, despite the efforts made by the Ministry of Health, to succeed in the fight against malaria several challenges must be overcome: 

Mr Agui Zadi of ROLPCI (Réseau des organisations de lutte contre le paludisme en Côte d’Ivoire) explained that his organisation was created in response to a need for coordinating malaria control activities at community level. He welcomed support from the Global Fund, the main donor in the fight against malaria, and recalled the urgency of respecting the commitments made by our governments to fight for what matters.

The CGECI (Confédération Générale des Entreprises de Côte d’Ivoire), represented by Mr N’Dri, has assured its concrete involvement in the fight against malaria by ensuring that malaria patients are cared for in enterprise health centres.

Several recommendations were made to the main actors, i.e. governments, heads of state and the Global Fund, to intensify the fight against malaria and NTDs in order to succeed.

This useful workshop ended with closing words from the Honorable Charles Lopez, who reiterated his institution’s willingness to support the fight, followed by Dr Kassi who thanked and encouraged the actors before Dr Lath Claudine from ASAPSU ended the workshop on behalf of Ms Navigue, President of the ASAPSU Board of Directors.

Join the March to Kigali campaign and sign the call to action here https://www.speakupafrica.org/fr/program/march-to-kigali/

But this year, World NTD Day takes on a special significance – it’s the first time this day is being officially recognized by the World Health Organization. That’s groundbreaking for the countries bearing the burden of these diseases as well as the 1.7 billion people adversely affected by them.

This recognition comes at a critical moment in the fight against NTDs. We’re now almost two years into a global pandemic, and during that time we’ve seen our hard-fought progress on NTD elimination severely threatened by the spread of COVID-19. While the pandemic has negatively impacted a wide variety of essential health care services, it’s been particularly detrimental to NTD programs, with disruptions occurring in 44% of countries and severe disruptions reported in 19% of countries. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated how crucial it is for all countries to take ownership of their health care challenges and be involved in the solutions. We’ve seen how lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines and treatments are not reaching people in African nations. Part of the reason is that Africa imports 99% of all of its vaccines while consuming 25% of the global vaccine supply. This has got to change.

African nations take the lead

The good news is that African nations, which are disproportionately affected by NTDs, are demonstrating tremendous leadership in the effort to eliminate these diseases. For example, the WHO Regional Office for Africa created the Expanded Special Project for Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ESPEN) in May 2016 to disseminate best practices, organize activities, and provide technical support. Coordinated, African-led efforts like this have led to the elimination of at least one NTD in 34 countries, including 10 in Africa.

This leadership and active involvement can be seen at every level—from national health agencies to local governments to community organizations—and across public and private sectors. Country governments are prioritizing the elimination of NTDs, ensuring long-term management and sustainability of NTD programs that align with national health strategies. Community health workers are being trained to be the first line of defense against these diseases. Awareness raising campaigns and activities are informing the people who are mostly likely to contract NTDs about ways to prevent and treat them. 

NTD elimination requires a multipronged approach

The organization I launched 10 years ago, Speak Up Africa, was founded on the premise that African nations must develop the solutions needed to tackle African health challenges. So it was natural for us to put the elimination of NTDs at the top of our agenda, since nearly 40% of the NTD burden is in Africa. Our approach has three key goals: strengthening political commitment to increase domestic resources for NTDs, working with stakeholders to make NTD decision-making spaces more inclusive, and supporting the creation of an enabling environment for increased prioritization of NTD elimination across all sectors.

In 2019, we launched “No to NTDs,” a grassroots movement to increase awareness, prioritization, and national commitment to accelerate the control and elimination of NTDs in Africa. In that short time, we have achieved a high level of engagement with governments, the private sector, youth groups, and civil society; increased domestic resources for sustainable funding and worked with NTD programs and civil society organizations to implement sustainable advocacy strategies.

In April 2021, Speak Up Africa and a group of likeminded organizations launched “March to Kigali,” an integrated campaign aimed at securing commitments from national and sub-national stakeholders to eliminate both NTDs and malaria. Building on the successes of the “No to NTDs” and “Zero Malaria Starts with Me” campaigns, “March to Kigali” specifically calls for the integration of malaria and NTD programs, with a particular focus on strengthening data and surveillance systems to improve timely deployment of malaria and NTD interventions and on multisectoral collaboration. 

More than 150 civil society and local organizations, media outlets, and individuals across the sub-region have signed the “March to Kigali” call to action, which demonstrates the incredible engagement and leadership that exists at the country level to end these diseases.  

This World NTD Day, join us in Senegal and  Benin as we march through selected cities to mobilize the attention of policymakers and the public on the need to increase awareness of and engagement in the effort to end NTDs.  

It’s official, Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), a group of diseases that affects 1 in 5 people globally, now have a dedicated United Nations-recognized date: January 30.

This milestone was achieved last May, during the 74th World Health Assembly. But why is this so important? Because of the terminology, these diseases are “neglected” because they are, or were, almost absent from the global health agenda, receive little funding, only 0.6% of global health funding goes to controlling NTDs, and are associated with stigma and social exclusion. 

Being “neglected”, these diseases lack visibility in the public eye and most importantly, in the communities they affect the most. But tremendous progress is being made and African countries, supported by the Regional Bureau of the World Health Organization’s Expanded Special Project for the Elimination of NTDs (ESPEN), are working tirelessly to beat NTDs: in March 2021, Côte d’Ivoire successfully eliminated human African trypanosomiasis, also known as “sleeping sickness”, as a public health problem, becoming the second African country after Togo to be validated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and in the last days of 2021, Niger was declared the first African country to ever eliminate onchocerciasis, also called as river blindness. 

The adage “In strength there is unity”, perfectly describes the fight against NTDs and the birth of the No to NTDs movement. Launched on the sidelines of the African Union Summit in Niger in 2019 and endorsed by high-level decision makers and leaders such as His Excellency Mr. Mahamadou Issoufou, former President of the Republic of Niger, the « No to NTDs » movement is part of an inclusive advocacy campaign aimed at increasing awareness, prioritization and national commitment to accelerate the control and elimination of NTDs in Africa. Now led by national NTD programmes and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) across West Africa, this movement places the fight against NTDs in the minds and actions of African communities. 

“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, a total of 757 million people received NTD treatment in 2020. This landmark highlights the leadership and active involvement that we are witnessing at every level—from national health agencies to local governments to community organizations—and across public and private sectors. Country governments are prioritizing the elimination of NTDs, ensuring long-term management and sustainability of NTD programs that align with national health strategies.”

Yacine Djibo, Executive Director of Speak Up Africa.

Still in the spirit of unity and regional cooperation, the “March to Kigali” campaign was launched in April 2021, by a group of like-minded CSOs from Francophone and Anglophone African nations to call for the integration of malaria and NTD programs, with a particular focus on strengthening data and surveillance systems to improve timely deployment of malaria and NTD interventions and on multisectoral collaboration. It builds on the existing partnerships and platforms of the « No to NTDs » and « Zero Malaria Starts with Me » campaigns and aims to secure commitments from national and sub-national stakeholders to end these epidemics by 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To date, more than 150 civil society and community-based organizations, media and individuals across the sub-region have signed the call to action. To mark World NTD Day, close to 400 people symbolically marched to Kigali this week-end in the streets of Parakou and Dakar to raise awareness on NTDs and demand more prioritization and funding to put end to these diseases. 

“Ten years ago, the burgeoning NTD world came together and signed the London Declaration on NTD. Today, we are proud to be part of this continental “March to Kigali” movement and as CSOs and to endorse the Kigali Declaration, we can see the growing ownership of the fight against NTDs and malaria in our African countries and amongst our youths, communities and decision makers. Together, we are making great strides and we are enthusiastic, 100% committed and energized to reach the last mile and leave no one behind.”

Dr. Odry Fifonsi Agbessi , President of VIA-ME in Benin.

Unprecedented progress has been achieved in this fight and 43 countries worldwide have eliminated at least one NTD. To mark these collaborative and impressive efforts from civil society organizations, decision-makers and donors, partners around the world are lighting up, in orange and purple, monuments in the spirit of unity. In Benin “Place Tabera” was lit up on the 29th of January in Parakou while in Niger, the “No to NTDs” Multisectoral Coalition, lit up the “Place of Concertation” in Niamey.

Conakry-Cotonou-Dakar-Niamey

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