To mark this year’s World NTD Day, iconic buildings around the world, including the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt and the African Renaissance Monument in Senegal, were lit up. Sightsavers celebrated this event by praising the hard-earned progress made in the fight to combat NTDs and called on the global community to collaborate to finish the job.
2021 starts a historic decade for NTDs as the World Health Organization (WHO) launched its road map 2021-2030.
The African Renaissance Monument outside Dakar was one of the many buildings around the world that lit up to celebrate the hard-earned progress to combat NTDs.
Salimata Bocoum, Sightsavers’ country director in Senegal, said: “It is important to mark World NTD Day because we are working hard to eliminate trachoma in Senegal. We have made a lot of progress, but there is much still to do to ensure that this disease, which can cause so much pain and disability, is stopped in its tracks.”
Thanks to the Accelerate programme, Senegal is making progress towards the elimination of trachoma.
On 29 January, Ghana started a week-long celebration with an event in Accra. It featured a student health walk to raise awareness about NTDs and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, especially those with disabilities caused by NTDs.
In June 2018, Ghana was confirmed as the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to eliminate the NTD trachoma as a public health problem. But the country is still working to protect communities from river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, thanks to support from UK aid’s Ascend West and Central Africa programme.
Dr Franklin Asiedu-Bekoe, director, public health division for the Ghana Health Service, stated: “While the world and Ghana are putting our attention to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must not lose sight of the fact these NTDs affect some of our most vulnerable people.
“As we celebrate World NTD Day, let’s remember our folks in the communities that have no access to proper water and sanitation and are thereby increasing their risk of NTDs. Together as a country, we can face NTDs and end their neglect.”
Nigeria held a mass drug administration (MDA) in Benue State to protect communities from river blindness and lymphatic filariasis. The MDA was held at the Federal University of Agriculture in Makurdi reaching lecturers, their family members and students.
Benue, Kebbi, Kogi and Zamfara states also celebrated World NTD Day by raising awareness of the NTDs that affect their communities through phone-in radio programmes, press briefings and community outreach.
Simon Bush, Sightsavers’ director of NTDs, joined comedian Eddie Izzard for a 30-minute chat while she ran her 30th marathon for charity. Throughout the marathon, which she ran virtually on a treadmill, Eddie highlighted World NTD Day and discussed the importance of coming together to eliminate NTDs.
During the chat, Simon stated: “Global health is getting a lot of attention because of the pandemic, but I think we’ve got to also stress that across the planet, in addition to COVID-19, we’ve got this major group of diseases that are impacting on the health of individuals, the health of communities – and the economic impact of these diseases, particularly on rural communities.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also recorded a message in support of World NTD Day which was shared by Uniting to Combat NTDs. In his message, the prime minister spoke of the impact of NTDs and highlighted that thanks to funding from UK aid, the country is joining the fight to beat these conditions.
Smantha Nyathi, Sightsavers’ NTD programme officer, joined five other panellists for a World NTD Day live webinar with the Global Shapers Harare Hub.
Zimbabwe is also the focus of our journey of the trachoma treatment. The journey of the treatment celebrates the vital work that governments, donors, partners and community volunteers do to ensure that people get treatment to help eliminate trachoma.
Dr Batcho, national NTD coordinator, addressed the country in a televised message to raise awareness of NTDs.
Additionally, a televised debate was broadcast discussing the impact of NTDs on women and children.
Thanks to the Accelerate programme, Sightsavers is supporting the fight to eliminate trachoma and UK aid’s Ascend West and Central Africa programme is assisting the ministry of heath to protect communities from lymphatic filariasis and river blindness.
In Singida, an inclusive eye health programme has made eye care services more affordable, sustainable and equitable. Here, four people involved with the project share their stories.
In Nigeria and Kenya, two innovative education projects are enabling children with disabilities to reach their potential.
Since 2012, Sightsavers has been using smartphones to collect high-quality data, so that countries can effectively map the disease and focus their elimination efforts.