Experts seek more funding for health in Africa Thoko Elphick-Pooley

NAIROBI. – African experts have called for increased financing to eliminate neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, that continue to devastate the continent, address stigma related to such diseases, as well as invest in better coordination and integration.

The experts made the remarks at a webinar organised by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to mark World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day on Monday. They urged more action this year, noting that a lot of progress on eliminating the sicknesses was realised last year compared to 2021.

Thoko Elphick-Pooley, executive director of Uniting to Combat NTDs and co-chair of the G7 Taskforce on Global Health, said Africa is facing a funding crisis for NTDs.

She said the United Kingdom government’s decision in September 2021 to reduce its overseas development assistance from 0.7 percent of its gross national income to 0.5 percent greatly affected the fight against tropical diseases in Africa, as funding on the segment was completely wiped out.

Elphick-Pooley said Covid-19 disruptions affected NTD services in many African countries, with many treatment programs having been suspended or resources to deliver the services having been diverted to Covid-19 response.

She said tropical diseases treatment declined by 34 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, but noted that there was a 10 percent recovery in 2021.

Elphick-Pooley also said that the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict has also impacted domestic resource allocation on tropical diseases.

She said the continental framework and the common Africa position will remain just a beautiful document on the shelf if there is no sustainable financing for neglected tropical diseases.

“If we are to meet the NTD goals, if we are to recover from Covid-19, if we are to safeguard the hard won elimination gains of the past decade, we need a multiyear funding plan led by countries in order to change this picture,” she said.

“We are calling on leaders to join us for a series of NTD Indaba to problem-solve: Bringing donors and decision-makers from endemic countries together to set out a pathway for sustainable funding for neglected tropical disease programmes.”

John Muriuki, regional director for East, Central and Southern Africa of international charity Sightsavers, said there is need for funding for river blindness because it required long-term treatment and management. –

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