Tanzania: Neglected Diseases Now to Be Part of Malaria Scorecard

Trachoma screening in Nigeria (file photo).

Dar es Salaam — The African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) is expected to release its annual scorecardon the coming Sunday of 28 January,updating the progress made in malaria control and prevention on the continent.

The development comes as part of the 30th annual African Union Heads of State Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Prime Minister KassimMajaliwa is expected to represent Tanzania at the summit, according to foreign Minister Dr Augustine Mahiga.

For the first time this year, ALMA, in collaboration with Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases and the World Health Organization, will report the progress made on five neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that affect the poorest populations in Africa.

ALMA deems it necessary to include NTDs in the scorecard because the NTDs are transmitted in the same manner as malaria. There is alsoa shared community distributions platforms that are used for both Malaria and NTDs.

According to sources, the scorecard will reveal how individual countries are faring in their strategies to treat and prevent the spread of trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis (river blindness), schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH); with a view to taking action and accelerating progress on these diseases.

Globally, more than 1.5 billion people are affected by NTDs and in Africa; this figure is estimated to be over 620 million.

Their inclusion of NTDsin the ALMA scorecard is seen asa signal that the heads of state are prioritizing NTDs and holding themselves accountable for progress.

The ALMA Scorecard is one part of the strategy to shine a spotlight on these diseases and to raise their profile amongst heads of state on the African continent where over 40 percent of the global burden is found.

Read: Tanzania set to streamline policy on neglected diseases

Tanzania is a major stakeholder in the fight against NTDs, apart from being one of the countries affected by the diseases.

Read: Former NIMR director scoops prize for efforts to control neglected diseases

The country is endemic to all five of the most common NTDs, with a large part of the population at risk for co-infection of two or more diseases, says a report issued by End Fund--an NGO dealing with NTDs in Tanzania last year.

In 2009, Tanzania adopted the WHO initiative to integrate the implementation of activities of NTD and established a national NTD programme, but more is still needed to eliminate the public health menace.

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