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Togo becomes first country to eliminate four neglected tropical diseases

Published on 24/08/22 at 10:00am

WHO has announced that the Republic of Togo has been confirmed as the first country to eliminate four devastating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

The West African nation has successfully eliminated dracunculiasis (Guinea worm disease), elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis), human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) and trachoma, in an effort spanning between 2011 and 2022.

NTDs are a group of 20 diseases which are preventable and treatable. However, 1.7 billion people around the world still require NTS interventions, and many of the diseases debilitate and disable. They can also trap individuals and whole communities in cycles of extreme poverty by preventing children from going to school, and adults from being able to work

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General commented: “The elimination of dracunculiasis, lymphatic filariasis, human African trypanosomiasis and trachoma is an outstanding achievement, and a gift not only for the people of Togo today, but for generations to come.”

As the first country acknowledged by WHO as having won its fight against four NTDs, Togo adopted a two-pronged approach that focused on interrupting transmission and preventing occurrence of new infections; and secondly, treating or managing diseases, their associated morbidity, and their complications, to alleviate suffering.

“Togo has achieved a major feat by becoming the first country in Africa to eliminate four neglected tropical diseases,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “This achievement is an example for the rest of Africa and shows what is possible when health is made a priority.”

Dracunculiasis, also known as Guinea worm disease, is a parasitic infection by the Guinea worm, transmitted via contaminated drinking water. It causes disability for the three-to-ten-week illness period, and can also lead to death.

Lymphatic filariasis is also caused by parasitic worms, commonly known as elephantiasis, is a painful and profoundly disfiguring disease, which can also lead to extreme social and economic stigma. Elephantiasis causes swelling in the arms, legs, breasts, or genitals.

Human African trypanosomiasis is generally transmitted through contact with infected tsetse flies. If the infection is not treated properly, it is also deadly.

Trachoma is a bacterial disease that those with inadequate access to water, sanitation, and hygiene are particularly vulnerable to. It causes severe eye pain, and often leads to blindness.

Celebrating Togo’s achievement, and congratulating the country’s health workforce, Dr Tedros emphasised the need to further pursue the elimination and eradication of all NTDs in all countries.

Ana Ovey

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