By Kudzai Gurure:
Despite health having a crucial bearing on how much we can enjoy life, the presence of NTDs has racked havoc in the lives of many global citizens, especially here in Africa. NTDs have taken away the ‘enjoyment part’ of life to many a citizen thus far, but wait! What are NTDs anyways?
Well, NTDs is an abbreviation for Neglected Tropical Diseases and they are mostly communicable diseases that are caused by infectious agents or pathogens like parasites, bacteria and viruses. NTDs affect 1.5 billion people in the world, 869 million of them being children. They have left a trail of destruction which entails discomfort, pain, stunted growth, unproductivity and disability.
Over 170 thousand people die each year because of these infections. The most common NTD is soil transmitted helminth also referred to as intestinal worms and there are millions of people in the world infected with hookworms, roundworms and whipworms to mention a few. These diseases also include lymphatic filariasis or elephantiasis, trachoma which is bacteria that
affects the eyes and can lead to blindness, leprosy and onchocerciasis better known as river blindness. Leishmaniasis known as black fever or kala azar is another lethal disease spread by parasites.
Another major NTD is schistosomiasis more commonly known as bilharzia. 220 million people are affected by it and it is estimated that at least 92% of those requiring treatment for bilharzia live in Africa. The most common of these diseases in Zimbabwe are
intestinal worms, bilharzia, elephantiasis and trachoma. NTDS have been classified as “other diseases” under the United Nations Millennium Development Goal Six. They have been overlooked in light of other more threatening diseases like Malaria, but the general population has not been spared of their devastating effects on well being many which have resulted in death.
One of the targets under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Number 3 of Good Health and Wellbeing aims to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases by 2030.
As the Global Shapers of the Harare Hub, we have joined the fight against NTDs by partnering with the End Fund which is dedicated towards eradicating neglected tropical diseases. The Higherlife Foundation has also played a key role in our plight against these diseases. Currently our hub has embarked on an awareness campaign for NTDs and the mass drug administration programs that are underway so as to help prevent and cure people of these diseases. The mass drug administration is ongoing and the goal is to reach 3 million children, giving them preventive treatment for intestinal worms and bilharzia while 6 million adults are being targeted for elephantiasis.
The drug and administration costs are being borne by The Global Fund, The End Fund and Higherlife Foundation through the Ministry of Health who have been strategic investors in fighting NTDs. In addition to the use of de-worming to combat these diseases, emphasis has been placed on preventative measures through effective sanitation and hygiene. The Global Shapers Harare Hub has taken further steps to increase awareness and education by creating an application for mobile devices called EndNTDs which was successfully launched. Also in the pipeline is a comic book that gives information on NDTs targeted at the young and
young at heart.
We have also embarked on visits to organisations like Tichakunda Children’s Home, which are within communities that may be most affected, in a bid to raise awareness of these diseases. There is still a long way to go to rid the communities of these NTDs, but every
effort is a substantial step to get there.
The journey continues and as youths committed to bringing positive change to the planet, we will not rest. Feel free to also partner with us as we execute this life changing task. Alone we go fast, but together we go far. Lets join hands and end NTDs.
Writer: K.P Gurure | Editor: R.S Mazoyo | Cover Image: ntdsupport.org