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Infectious Diseases Q1 2024

Rejuvenating efforts to win the fight against neglected tropical diseases

Photo credits - RTI International | A boy's eyes are examined for signs of trachoma during a Tropical Data Training in Senegal.

H.E President Umaro Sissoco Embaló

President of Guinea Bissau and Chair, ALMA

Discover Africa’s progress in combating neglected tropical diseases. Explore success stories, challenges and innovative strategies for a healthier future.


Over the past decade, Africa has made significant strides in the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Nineteen countries have already eliminated at least one NTD, leading to 18 million fewer people needing interventions.

Togo eliminates four NTDs

In 2022, the Republic of Togo set an inspiring example by eliminating four NTDs: Guinea-worm disease, elephantiasis, sleeping sickness and trachoma. Guinea worm disease is on the verge of eradication, and sleeping sickness has been eliminated in seven countries, with reported Buruli ulcer cases decreasing by 71% from 2010 to 2021.

NTD challenges in Africa

These achievements showcase Africa’s resilience against NTDs but also highlight the need to address remaining challenges. Africa still carries 40% of global NTD cases, facing issues like inadequate funding, limited integration into national health programs, and the looming threat of climate change.

Financing and cross-sector collaboration

To ensure the sustainability of our efforts, innovative financing mechanisms are essential. Political commitment and innovative health financing are vital, complementing the support from international partners. African leaders must play a central role in translating commitments into concrete action as exemplified by the United Republic of Tanzania and the Republic of Sierra Leone, which increased domestic contributions for combating NTDs during the ‘Reaching the Last Mile’ forum at COP28.

Cross-sectoral collaboration involving the private sector, civil society organisations, religious institutions and youth is equally crucial to enhancing investments in NTD programmes. Launched in 2023, Guinea Bissau’s integrated End Malaria and NTD council sets a precedent for coordinating multisectoral action and mobilising domestic resources.

Investing in NTDs contributes to global health equity and Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Boost global health equity

Investing in NTDs contributes to global health equity and Universal Health Coverage (UHC). It strengthens health systems and benefits marginalised communities, offering cost-effective interventions that can end needless suffering. Addressing NTDs is a stepping stone to poverty alleviation, enhancing key areas like education, gender equity and economic growth.

Unified strategies to prevent NTDs

The One Health Approach, championed by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), recognises the interconnectedness of health threats at the human-animal-environment nexus. Integrated efforts against NTDs and malaria have been emphasised at the Kigali Summit on Malaria and NTDs.

The African Union’s Continental Framework for NTD Control and Elimination further calls for coordination and harmonisation as catalysts for NTD elimination targets. As such, unified strategies — especially during challenges like the climate crisis and pandemics — are vital for success against NTDs, offering collaboration, efficiencies and cost savings for a stronger response.

Our triumphs over the last decade have shown us that NTDs are treatable, preventable, and well within our grasp for elimination. We must ride on the promising trajectory of this fight to propel more progress. By rallying together, we can reach the last mile, liberating Africa from the burden of NTDs for good.

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