During the recent World Health Forum in Geneva the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Office for Africa (AFRO) launched a new partnership to help African countries reduce the burden of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
The Expanded Special Project for Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ESPEN) aims to provide national NTD programmes with technical and fundraising support to help them control and eliminate the five NTDs with the greatest burden on the continent, which collectively affect hundreds of millions of people.
ESPEN builds on the gains made by the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC), which closed at the end of 2015 following 20 years of tackling and reducing onchocerciasis (river blindness) in Africa. Alongside onchocerciasis, ESPEN will be integrated approaches to tackle lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminths and trachoma.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, said: “We know what needs to be done to beat NTDs; ESPEN will make sure national NTD programmes have the data, expertise and financial resources they need to accelerate the fight against these diseases.”
ESPEN will help provide African countries with the technical and financial capacity to employ the programmatic tools such as prevalence maps and will support country programmes in identifying and developing the most effective distribution models for the medicines needed to treat the affected communities.
Hon. Prof. Isaac Folorunsho Adewole, Federal Minister of Health, Nigeria, said: “To beat NTDs, we need the right tools and data to help us get treatments to the people who need them. This special project will help governments across Africa provide a healthier future for our people.”
ESPEN will run from 2016 to 2020, and is designed to continue momentum toward the control and elimination targets established by the World Health Organization and endorsed in the London Declaration on NTDs in January 2012. In 2014, two dozen African countries committed to strengthen their commitment to NTDs under the Addis Ababa Commitment on NTDs.
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ESPEN builds on the Africa Programme for Onchoserciasis Control (APOC). The below short animation explains the success of the APOC programme