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


Bien que les Maladies Tropicales Négligées (MTN) les plus courantes en Afrique et le paludisme soient des maladies entièrement évitables et traitables, elles continuent de causer des obstacles majeurs au développement économique et social en Afrique.

Alors que depuis les années 2000, le nombre de décès dus au paludisme a diminué de 50%, les progrès se sont ralentis ces dernières années. On dénombre encore plus de 200 millions de cas par an et plus de 400 000 décès et plus de 90% de ces cas et de ces décès sont recensés sur le continent africain.

Affectant plus d’1,5 milliard de personnes dans le monde, les MTN sont responsables de milliers de décès évitables chaque année et provoquent des handicaps à long terme qui perpétuent des cycles de la pauvreté. Au cœur de la lutte contre le paludisme et des MTN se trouve la lutte contre les inégalités. Ces maladies se développent dans des régions où les taux de pauvreté sont plus élevés, où l’accès à des soins de santé de qualité et à des installations sanitaires adéquates est rare et où les plus vulnérables souffrent le plus.

La campagne « En marche vers Kigali » lancée en avril 2021, en amont du Sommet sur les MTN et le paludisme, à cette heure reportée à cause du contexte sanitaire global, est menée par un groupe d’organisations de la société civile (OSC) partageant les mêmes idées et provenant de divers pays africains francophones et anglophones. Elle s’appuie sur les plateformes déjà existantes des campagnes « Non aux MTN » et « Zéro palu ! Je m’engage » et vise à obtenir des engagements de la part des parties prenantes régionales, nationales et locales pour mettre fin à ces maladies d’ici 2030 et dans le cadre de l’atteinte des Objectifs de développement durable (ODD).

Et c’est dans le but de sensibiliser les communautés sur les fardeaux que constituent le paludisme et les MTN ainsi que l’importance de leur priorisation que Speak Up Africa a organisé de concert avec le Musée de la Femme Béninoise, un panel dans le cadre de la Journée Internationale de la Jeune Fille, célébrée le 11 octobre 2021.

Cette journée a été la parfaite occasion pour mettre en exergue l’impact disproportionné de ces maladies sur les femmes et les jeunes filles en Afrique avec des experts autour du thème « Combattre conjointement les MTN et le paludisme pour favoriser l’égalité des genres ». Cette tribune a permis aux participants de débattre et de réfléchir ensemble sur les avancées et les défis de la lutte contre ces deux fléaux tout en mettant un accent particulier sur la dimension genre.

« Le paludisme au Bénin, comme dans la plupart des pays tropicaux, continue d’être un lourd fardeau pour la population malgré les résultats tangibles enregistrés ces dernières années ». Il va plus loin en indiquant que « les femmes enceintes et les enfants de moins de 5 ans sont les plus affectées par ce mal. C’est pourquoi, le PNLP a initié plusieurs actions de sensibilisation à l’endroit des femmes et jeunes filles en âge de procréer pour leur montrer l’importance de se rendre à l’hôpital lorsqu’elles sont enceintes afin de bénéficier du Traitement Préventif Intermittent (TPI). Malgré la gratuité de ce traitement, les femmes ne se rendent pas à l’hôpital et cela est vraiment déplorable. Nous espérons que cette mentalité changera et que les actions des autorités sanitaires permettront de mieux contrôler ce mal ».

Anicet ADJEIN, représentant du Programme National de Lutte contre le Paludisme

« Cette initiative est l’occasion de mettre en lumière les maladies dites négligées et qui sont peu connues de la population et même des décideurs. Pourtant, ces maladies affectent de nombreuses femmes et de jeunes filles des communautés les plus pauvres. Si nous prenons l’exemple du trachome, c’est une maladie qui quand elle n’est pas traitée, entraine une cécité irréversible. Or 70% des personnes touchées sont des femmes. Il faudrait donc accentuer les actions de sensibilisation, et mettre en place un dispositif efficace de lutte contre ces maladies dévastatrices parmi les populations les plus pauvres ».

Dr Wilfrid BATCHO, Coordonnateur du Programme National de Lutte contre les Maladies Transmissibles

Hormis la lutte contre ces deux fléaux, ce panel vise surtout à mettre en exergue l’importance du leadership féminin dans les actions sanitaires au Bénin.

« le leadership de la femme est hautement recherché dans tous les domaines de la société, notamment sur les questions de santé. La lutte efficace contre le paludisme et les MTN nécessite l’implication de tous et c’est d’ailleurs pourquoi l’association VIA-ME que je préside s’est activement impliquée dans la campagne régionale « En marche vers Kigali ». Et « le 229 marche vers Kigali » est une excellente occasion pour les OSC de porter leur voix pour la priorisation de la lutte contre les MTN et le paludisme auprès de élus locaux. Aussi, l’association VIA-ME mène énormément d’actions auprès des jeunes filles, notamment celles qui sont déscolarisées à travers des projets tels que ‘’She is great’’ ou ‘’Gnonnou Assouka’’. Ces actions visent principalement l’autonomisation de ces jeunes filles et le développement de leur leadership ».

Dr Odry AGBESSI, chirurgienne réparatrice et Présidente de l’association VIA-ME

Zackiath LATOUNDJI, Journaliste Santé et Présidente de l’Union des Professionnels des Médias du Bénin (UPMB) a apprécié l’implication des médias dans la lutte contre les MTN et le paludisme. Il est important selon elle, que les acteurs du domaine collaborent davantage avec les professionnels des médias. Les médias pourront dès lors avoir des contenus et informer les communautés sur ces maladies.

« Il faut avouer que les professionnels de médias ne sont pas suffisamment impliqués dans le système de santé publique au Bénin. Communiquer autour de la santé est un exercice délicat et ce type de communication ou d’information touche directement à la vie de l’homme. Les professionnels des médias doivent être capables de distinguer les rumeurs des faits réels, et surtout faire recours à des sources fiables et vérifiables. L’implication des médias dans toutes les actions à fort impact est pourtant bénéfique pour tous car, le professionnel de média est celui qui conduit l’information de la source vers les populations les plus éloignées ; et pour ce faire, il a parfois recours aux agents communautaires pour traduire cette information afin de la rendre plus digeste et compréhensible pour ces populations. En ce qui concerne la lutte contre le paludisme et les Maladies Tropicales Négligées, il faudrait qu’une passerelle se crée entre toutes les parties prenantes afin que l’information soit structurée et fluide ».

Zackiath LATOUNDJI, Journaliste Santé et Présidente de l’Union des Professionnels des Médias du Bénin (UPMB)

Pour Mme Eunice LOISEL, Directeur de la Banque Commerciale à Ecobank Bénin représentante du secteur privé à l’occasion, plusieurs défis restent à relever notamment celui du financement de l’appui à l’élimination du paludisme, d’où l’initiative « Zéro Palu ! Les entreprises s’engagent », lancée par le Groupe Ecobank en partenariat avec Speak Up Africa.

« L’initiative ‘’Zéro Palu ! Les entreprises s’engagent’’ vise à fédérer toutes les entreprises du secteur privé autour de la lutte contre le paludisme afin de rehausser le financement domestique prévu pour cette cause. Le paludisme a une forte dimension de genre en ce sens qu’il affecte un peu plus les femmes que les hommes. Par exemple, lorsque nous prenons le cas des familles monoparentales ou polygamiques où la femme joue à la fois le rôle de père, de mère, et parfois même de médecin pour ses enfants, il est évident que sa productivité sera affectée. Qu’elle soit cheffe d’entreprise, employée artisane ou commerçante, si elle a un enfant souffrant du paludisme, cela se répercutera sur sa productivité et par ricochet sur le rendement de l’entreprise. Ecobank Bénin s’est donc engagé aux côtés de Speak Up Africa et du PNLP pour mieux contenir l’impact du paludisme sur le secteur privé en mobilisant le maximum d’entreprises et chefs d’entreprises.  Avec cette approche, nous sommes convaincus que d’ici quelques années nous parviendrons à éliminer le paludisme du Bénin et pourquoi pas de toute l’Afrique »

Eunice LOISEL, Directeur de la Banque Commerciale à Ecobank Bénin représentante du secteur privé à l’occasion

Pour conclure, ce panel a été l’opportunité pour les panélistes de revenir sur le problème de santé public que constituent ces deux maladies et leurs impacts sur les jeunes filles et femmes. Il s’est avéré très instructif et a permis de mettre en avant le genre à travers la représentativité des femmes au sein les panélistes. 

« Nous avons été honorés d’avoir pu participer à l’organisation de ce panel enrichissant. Personnellement, cela a été l’occasion pour moi de toucher du doigt les efforts faits par le gouvernement béninois afin de lutter convenablement contre le paludisme et les maladies tropicales négligées. Je puis vous assurer que ce fut pour moi un immense plaisir de conduire cet échange aux cotés de ces femmes et de ces hommes dont les actions ne sont plus à démontrer. En tant que fervente défenseuse de l’héroïsme féminin, je suis fière de percevoir à travers ce panel, la contribution de la femme béninoise dans le développement du Bénin. Et pour cause, je tiens particulièrement à remercier Speak Up Africa pour cette belle initiative ».

Wuldath MAMA, la responsable du Musée de la femme béninoise

Cotonou, September 10, 2021

On July 2, 2020, Ecobank Group, in collaboration with the non-profit organization Speak Up Africa and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, launched the « Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative ».

Several companies have already joined the initiative in Benin, and MTN, through its foundation, is participating in the movement for the elimination of malaria and is committed to protecting people nationwide.

The initiative aims to strengthen African governments’ efforts to fight malaria by mobilizing private sector companies to contribute to the Zero Malaria Fund.

To this end, the fund, through the establishment of innovative financing tools tailored to the needs of businesses and responding to the priorities of the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) was launched on November 17, 2020, by Benin’s Minister of Health, Pr. Benjamin Hounkpatin.

The National Malaria Control Program, Ecobank and Speak Up Africa are looking forward to the positive impact of this new partnership with MTN Benin, one which will contribute significantly to the fight against malaria.

« This partnership has the merit of being particularly beneficial since the cell phone operator MTN Benin gives us access to a large and recognized network of subscribers and has a large pool of business leaders and corporate clients. The contribution of the MTN Benin Foundation will allow us to amplify the sensitization efforts of the National Malaria Control Program through mass communication to the population in general and to company managers and staff in particular. We are also convinced that through the network’s digital platform, we will be able to maximize the financial contribution of the private sector to meet national and local malaria control priorities. »

Eunice Loisel, Director of Commercial Banking at Ecobank Benin.

« We are honored to be among the companies committed to the Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative. MTN Benin will support Ecobank Benin in its efforts to mobilize as many private sector companies and resources as possible, which is crucial to increasing funding for the fight against this disease and to protecting all those at risk. This strategic partnership marks a decisive step forward in the collaboration between these different stakeholders and closely aligns with our vision of corporate citizenship. »

General Manager of MTN Benin, Mrs. Uchenna Ofodile

« The fight against malaria requires the contribution of all, and this is what drives the idea behind the Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative. Today, we are particularly proud of MTN Benin’s commitment. We hope that through this collaboration, other companies will join the initiative and support this important cause. By aligning our actions and endeavors, we will be able to free communities from the burden of malaria, »

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

The Zero Malaria Starts with Me campaign was launched in July 2018 at the 31st African Union Summit in Nouakchott by the 55 African Heads of State and Government with the aim of reinvigorating political commitment, accelerating action, mobilizing resources, and increasing accountability to eliminate malaria in Africa by 2030. This continental campaign is country-led and jointly coordinated by the African Union Commission and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria.

The « Zero Malaria Business Leadership Initiative » is currently being implemented in Benin, Burkina Faso and Senegal.

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