Neglected Tropical Diseases in TogoNeglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) tend to prosper in underserved regions, where water quality, sanitation and access to health services are inadequate. NTDs mostly affect the poor and excessively women and children. In Togo, NTDs affect all 40 districts, and about 6 million people have been at risk of contracting at least one illness.

Efforts to Eliminate Neglected Tropical Diseases in Togo

Togo eradicated four diseases within 11 years; from 2011 to 2022. It eliminated dracunculiasis (guinea worm disease) in 2011, elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis) in 2017, human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) in 2020 and trachoma in May 2022. The Togolese Ministry of Health has been working with Health and Development International and USAID to end these diseases. Effective measures included:

  • Mass drug administration (MDA) via door-to-door drug distribution,
  • Building awareness about NTDs and treatment via village criers or religious leaders,
  • Training health care workers; and
  • Ensuring adequate drug supply

Additionally, many partnerships and funding have contributed to the success of Togo’s control and elimination of these NTDs. USAID has provided funding for more than nine years through Health & Development International (HDI) and assistance from Family Health International (FHI360). Some other donors are the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Mectizan Donation Program, Sightsavers, The Task Force for Global Health, UNICEF and WHO. The U.S. also provides additional support by enacting a bill called “End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act,” in 2019. This piece of legislation ensures further aid and research efforts to End NTDs in the most vulnerable places across the globe.

Positive Impact on Poverty Reduction

The elimination of these four NTDs indicates significant progress toward healthier life not only for the Togolese but for the poor in the world. Most of NTDs involve considerable suffering and disability. They prevent children from going to school and adults from being able to work. Then the cycle of poverty never ends.

For example, guinea worm disease which usually causes pain and blisters in people’s legs has a long recovery period after surgery. Lymphatic filariasis is a parasitic infection, transmitted via bites of an infected mosquito. It affects human lymphatic vessels and causes severe swelling of arms, legs and scrotum. This makes a person unable to ambulate or join church due to disfigurement. If someone is infected with trachoma, they are at risk for vision loss. Repeated infection can severely scar the inside of the eyelid and result in constant pain and light intolerance. If people do not receive treatment, it leads to blindness. Now, the poor, including the Togolese, have more hope to live without going through the pain, stigma, social isolation and disability caused by these diseases.

Final Thoughts

It is exciting that Togo becomes the first country in the world to eliminate four Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). This achievement not only improves the well-being of citizens across the country but also lightens the burden on public health. Still, there are other NTDs that pose significant health risks in Togo and other low-income countries. A few of the diseases are onchocerciasis (river blindness), schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis. Hopefully, with Togo’s continued effort to tackle NTDS, coupled with support from international agencies like USAID, these diseases can also be eliminated sooner rather than later.

– Naomi Kang
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Togo
Poverty in Togo is a widespread issue. The nation is one of the world’s top five producers of phosphates, which are widely used in making fertilizers. However, Togo remains poor. Although Togo’s overall economy and GDP have improved in recent years, many worry that the rate of poverty in Togo is not declining fast enough. The disparity is especially notable in Togo’s agricultural sector, in which the majority of Togo’s population has employment. These issues leave many wondering, “What can be done to aid the people of Togo?”

Poverty in Rural Areas

Togo is a presidential republic in West Africa. Formerly known as French Togoland, Togo achieved its independence from France in 1960. A few years later, in 1967, General Gnassingbe Eyadema installed a military rule. After President Gnassingbe’s nearly four-decade-long rule, the military placed Faure Gnassignbe, the son of the former president, into office. Since then, Togo has been moving toward gradual reform of its democratic system. However, the Togolese’s frustration with the slow pace of this reform sometimes results in violent outbursts of political demonstrations.

According to the CIA World Factbook, 55.1% of Togo’s population lived below the poverty line in 2015. Rural poverty is especially concerning as more than half of Togo’s population resides in rural areas. In the World Bank’s estimation, the 2015 rate of poverty was worse for Togo’s rural areas, where 69% of the households lived below the poverty line.

These rural residents, the majority of whom are farmers, make up 65% of the Togolese workforce. Recognizing the vital role that the agricultural sector plays in Togo’s economy, many organizations and experts are focusing on revitalizing Togo’s agricultural sector. According to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), a multi-donor trust fund that provides food security in the world’s poorest countries, Togo’s food yields from agriculture have been consistently low.

The Link Between Rural Poverty and Agriculture

The yields of Togo’s major export crops, such as cotton, coffee and cocoa, have been declining for some time. In order to make up for the food deficit, Togo still relies on foreign imports for some basic food items. Upon closer inspection, industry experts stated that some of the barriers to agriculture improvement in rural Togo include:

  • A lack of effective policies that assure provisions of inputs (seeds and fertilizers)
  • Underdeveloped markets for agricultural goods
  • The absence of farming and transportation infrastructure

To address Togo’s rural poverty, GAFSA and the World Bank implemented the Togo Agriculture Sector Support Project (PASA) in 2017. PASA, a $19 million project, aimed to improve Togo’s agricultural output and foster an institutional environment that can encourage agricultural investment. According to GAFSA’s report, PASA brought numerous changes to Togo’s agricultural sector. Under PASA, Togo’s rice yields increased by 30%, farm employment opportunities in rural areas for the youth rose and numerous coffee farms and cocoa farms underwent rehabilitation. PASA rehabilitated 17,174 hectares of coffee farms and 11,578 hectares of cocoa plantations by implementing improved planting materials and improving coffee and cocoa value chains. Reports determined that PASA has helped 877,191 Togolese citizens.

Poverty in Togo has a close relationship with the performance of Togo’s agricultural sector. As the greatest source of employment for Togolese workers, the improvement of Togo’s agricultural sector is paramount to ensure a more stable economic future for Togo. While Togo’s economic potential is becoming a reality through steady improvement, there is still a long road ahead for Togo. The Togolese government and many other international experts recognize the importance of bolstering the country’s economy through the improvement of the agricultural sector. Organizations such as the World Bank and GAFSA are already implementing measures to alleviate poverty in Togo.

Although there are still many improvements that need to occur in agriculture and maintaining political stability, Togo has the ability to lift itself from poverty in the near future.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in TogoChild marriage is a very prevalent problem in Togo, a country in West Africa. In Togo, approximately 22% of girls under the age of 18 are married. Despite a large number of child marriages, there are many social and political aspects of Togolese society that propel child marriage in Togo. Here are five reasons child marriage continues in Togo.

  1. Poverty is one of the leading causes of child marriage in Togo. As one of the world’s poorest countries, more than 30% of the Togolese population faces extreme poverty. Many impoverished families arrange marriages for their daughters to help the family’s financial situation. Poverty also influences other problems that drive child marriages in Togo such as access to education and health.
  2. Health Issues: Many children in poverty predominantly suffer from health issues. Togo has a 50% life expectancy rate for children under 5. The death of a child for a family in poverty can create financial strain primarily when families rely on children to do housework or farming. The financial stress often pushes parents to marry their daughters as soon as possible to ease the financial strain. This forces many young girls into arranged marriages with strangers.
  3. Lack of Education: Education also plays a crucial role in driving child marriage. Young girls in Togo are married off if they do not reach a certain level of education. This especially impacts young girls in poverty who cannot go to school because they are helping their parents raise their siblings, do housework or farm. Almost half of the illiterate Togolese women in their early 20’s were married before the age of 18.
  4. Financial Dependency: Establishing financial independence for young women is essential for ending child marriages in Togo. Although many families marry their young children as a means to escape poverty, child marriage is counterproductive to ending the cycle of poverty for young girls in Togo. A girls’ rights advocate from Togo for PLAN International, Yolande, explains that marriage, especially at a young age, keeps girls from being financially independent. She states that “Most of the married girls in Togo come from poor families. Marriage keeps girls in poverty and prevents them from becoming financially empowered and flourishing as individuals.”
  5. No Political Support: Even though poverty often leads to child marriage in Togo, the lack of policies prohibiting child marriage allows child marriage to continue. It is illegal in Togo for girls to marry under the age of 18. However, girls can marry before the age of 18 with parental consent. Without the proper legislation for the prohibition of child marriage in Togo, child marriage will continue.

Working Toward a Solution

Many organizations are working to end child marriage in Togo. Women’s WorldWide Web (W4) is an online crowdfunding platform working specifically in Togo. They promote education and the empowerment of women. Their programs aim to provide income-generation for women who have been affected by young marriage. This helps women gain financial independence and create sustainable livelihoods for themselves.

Togo’s child marriage prevalence is mainly due to poverty itself, the rippling effects and the lack of government support for child marriage prohibition legislation. However, there are many organizations like fighting for these young women and their rights. With their efforts and the push for proper legislative policies, young Togolese girls may one-day gain financial and personal independence.

– Kaitlyn Gilbert
Photo: Flickr

Togo is a West African Nation on the Gulf of Guinea. It lies between Ghana and Benin and has a population of 7.6 million. Almost 7 out of 10 people in Togo live on less than $2 a day, making it one of the world’s poorest countries.

One of the problems that has plagued Togo in the past is inadequate education, which contributes to the country’s poverty. Education is a key component in preventing and eradicating poverty. Due to government action and help from aid organizations, which have contributed billions to the cause, the education system in Togo has improved. However, due to the gender inequality inherent in the structure of the society, women are still less likely to benefit from these improvements.

Girls’ Education in Togo: The Facts

According to UNICEF, 44.5 percent of Togolese women between the ages of 15 and 24 cannot read or write. Education is hard to come by regardless of gender in Togo, but inequality in the country makes it even more difficult for girls to enroll in and stay in school. Close to 30 percent of children in Togo are forced into child labor, and the majority of them are girls. “Porter children” consist mostly of young girls who transport burdens to various market stalls.

Prostitution and Human Trafficking

Every year, thousands of Togolese girls unwittingly enter into prostitution and other forms of servitude. They are sold into the trade by family members or older female traffickers in their communities known as ogas. These ogas are often former victims themselves, creating a circular system of trafficking. The girls are sent to work in nearby countries and communities. Other girls turn to prostitution as a source of income to support themselves and their families. Whatever the situation, all of these girls are at high risk of STD’s, unwanted pregnancies and physical and sexual abuse.

If the girls manage to escape sexual slavery, they often end up living in porterhouses on the streets of Togo, shunned by family members and society.

Child Marriage

Another significant barrier to education for girls in Togo is child marriage. Nearly 25 percent of girls in the country are forcibly married before the age of 18. Once these girls have to take on the roles of wives and mothers, they do not have the time to pursue an education. Due to cultural norms, girls are also trained from a young age on how to be good wives rather than being taught the importance of education.

Progress for Female Education

Despite the barriers to girls’ education in Togo, progress is being made in various ways:

  • The government has been putting in considerable effort in the past few years to improve the country’s education system. The primary education system is now free, so parents in rural areas no longer have to pay for their child’s first six years of education.
  • Togo joined the Global Partnership for Education in 2010 and received a $45 million grant, which yielded impressive results. As of June 2014, the country received another $27.8 million grant. This grant is even more devoted to strengthening girls’ enrollment in school. One of its three core components is, “Strengthening access and equity in primary education through school construction and equipment, promoting girls’ schooling, and provision of uniforms and sanitary kits.”
  • Togo has also developed an education strategy for the years 2014 to 2025, with the goal to “develop a quality basic education to achieve universal primary education by 2022.”
  • There have been many successes as a result of the funding that Togo has received. The country’s repetition rate decreased from 18.5 percent in 2013 to 8.38 percent in 2016. During that time, 14,549 primary teachers and head teachers were trained in the use of the new curriculum.
  • In 2015, the primary completion rate for girls rose to 78.5 percent from 55.8 percent in 2008. The Primary Gross Enrollment rate has risen substantially as well.

Education is often forgotten as an essential tool in the reduction of poverty. When women are educated, they contribute to the economy and alleviate poverty. Time will tell how the grant and education strategy in Togo will play out, but the statistics are encouraging. With continued effort, Togo’s goal of universal primary education by 2022 can be fulfilled.

– Evann Orleck-Jetter

Photo: Flickr

Togo is a largely underrepresented country when it comes to global poverty awareness. Up until about 500 years ago, nothing about the area was known. Togo is an African country sandwiched between Benin and Ghana on the Gulf of Guinea. It is characterized by palm-lined beaches, hilltop villages and phosphate production. Although Togo is one of the world’s top five producers of phosphates, an otherwise prosperous resource used in fertilizers, its inhabitants remain poor and almost entirely dependent on humanitarian foreign aid. Thus, the rates of poverty in Togo are very high.

Nearly 81.2 percent of Togo’s rural population lives under the global poverty line. This makes Togo one of the world’s poorest countries. Child welfare is a huge issue, as 49.5 percent of those impoverished are under 18 years of age. One out of every eight Togolese children will not live to see their fifth birthday. Many face disease, as well as violence and exploitation at the hands of corrupt labor forces and human trafficking. Although the Togolese put a lot of value into education, most children are unable to continue schooling, as their parents cannot afford it.

For years, Togo has been the target of criticism for its human rights policies and poor governance. Developmental aid for Togo was halted in 1992 due to poor governance and human rights issues. In the past, it has gained notoriety as a transit spot for ivory taken from poached elephants and rhinos. For many, this criminal behavior is an act of desperation, as poverty in Togo is so high that many see no other alternative.

However, work is being done. In 2015, Togo began making strides towards eliminating the worst forms of child labor. The Togolese government adopted a new penal code that would implement harsher penalties for human traffickers and other forms of child abuse. The National Committee for the Reception and Social Reinsertion of Trafficked Children also endorsed a new Protective Policy Document on Child Domestic Work which would launch movements to help vulnerable children access education.

As Togo relies heavily on NGOs and international organizations, it is also important that foreign governments help these children by supporting laws such as the Education for All Act.  Acts like this one would help to ensure that children similar to those in Togo receive a better education and opportunities.

Kayla Provencher

Photo: Flickr