The World Health Organization (WHO) has commended Ghana for its tremendous and successful efforts in eliminating a number of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The country has gotten extremely close to eradicating sleeping sickness, or human African trypanosomosis, a parasitic disease transmitted to humans through tsetse flies. Ghana has been following a global plan to try to eliminate all neglected tropical diseases by 2030 and has found recent success in eliminating three of the 20 most common tropical diseases.
About Sleeping Sickness
Sleeping sickness, which is a parasitic disease that infected tsetse flies carry, is an epidemic in 36 African countries. If not treated, the condition is almost always fatal. Sleeping sickness disproportionately affects those who live in rural areas because the residents of those areas rely heavily on agriculture, fishing and hunting, which exposes them to these infected flies. Once someone has sleeping sickness, those infected experience fevers, headaches, enlarged lymph nodes, pain in their joints and itching during the early stages of infection. If left untreated, sleeping sickness begins to affect the central nervous system. This begins to affect the patient’s neurological condition where they start to lose coordination, see changes in behavior and personality, confusion and the symptom where the disease gets its name, an interrupted sleep cycle.
Many, including the World Health Organization (WHO), have commended the success that Ghana has had in eliminating sleeping sickness. Ghana has eliminated sleeping sickness while also successfully eradicating two other neglected tropical diseases, guinea worm disease and trachoma. The World Health Organization director-general Dr. Tedros Adhomnom Ghebreyesus commended the government and health workers, saying “This is a historic achievement, proving once again that with dedication and teamwork, we can,” on Twitter.
The fight to eliminate these neglected tropical diseases was elevated when more funding was provided after there was a sharp decline in those receiving proper drugs to help prevent these tropical diseases from 2019 to 2020, where they saw a 34% decline. Ghana received around 19 billion units of medicine and more than $1 billion through foundations in order to help eradicate these diseases.
The president of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, said in a statement in regard to the benefits of investing in programs that help alleviate these diseases that these programs, “leads to better education, health and employment outcomes, an Africa free from neglected tropical diseases is possible.” Making sure that these programs exist to help fund proper medicine to help fight these diseases while also providing proper education and awareness about these illnesses in order to counteract the stigma associated with them. President Akufo-Addo also explained the domino effect that these programs have, saying, “it leads to better education, health, and employment outcomes, and transforms lives and communities.” These programs help alleviate the hardships that these diseases cause on the people while also having everlasting impacts on these areas for the better.
– Olivia MacGregor