Monrovia - The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday, February 20, donated a consignment of drugs to fight Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in Liberia.
During the donation ceremony at the Ministry of Health, WHO Country Director, Dr. Alex Gasasira noted that the consignment includes medication that will treat up to 2.5 million people in Liberia with Lymphatic filarias and Onchocerciasis, 300 patients with Leprosy and 100 people with Buruli ulcer.
NTDs are diverse group of communicable diseases that affect more than one billion people globally in 149 countries.
Dr. Gasasira, on behalf of his boss Dr. Matshidiso Moeti - who is WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, commended the Government of Liberia and partners including the pharmaceutical industries for their effort in controlling NTDs over the last 14 years.
He noted that the WHO’s contribution towards tackling these NTDs, which affect the “poorest of the poor” is in line with the new administration’s pro poor agenda and pledged the WHO’s continuous support to the health system of Liberia.
Dr. Gasasira: “The World Health organization wishes to take this opportunity to congratulate the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Health for their tremendous success that is being achieved in controlling neglected tropical diseases.
He said the MOH has been leading mass administration of drug in the country for the last 14 years.
“Over this period of time, targeted coverage of at least 80 percent has been achieved. Because of this, millions of Liberians who would be suffering from these terrible debilitating diseases that cause stigma and discrimination have been saved from this scotch,” Dr. Gasasira said.
Receiving the supply on behalf of the Liberian Government, the Chief Medical Officer of Liberia, Dr. Francis Kateh thanked WHO for the donation and noted that it will be a major boost to fighting NTDs in Liberia.
“The WHO has played a pivotal role in helping us not only to build our technical expertise or building our capacities. But the presentation of these needed drugs will come a long way,” he averred.
Dr. Kateh made a repeated call for more attention to be focused on creating awareness on these neglected tropical diseases and people who are being affected.
“I think it is time that we now begin to educate our people on the burden NCDs and NTDs placed on a government. Looking at the pro poor government, those diseases affect people at the lower strata of our economic situation. So providing care for them will come a long way in empowering them and that stigma will also be alleviated."
"They will be able to take care of their own children. And those children can now concentrate and go to school and become better citizens,” he said.
According to the WHO, the NTDs of great public health importance in Liberia are Lymphatic Filariasis (LF), Onchocerciasis, Schistosomiasis, and Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH) known as Preventive Chemotherapy-(PCT-NTDs), and Leprosy and Buruli ulcer known as Intensified Disease management (IDM-NTDs).
Lymphatic filariasis is endemic in 13 counties, while Onchocerciasis and STH are endemic in the whole country. Leprosy is still a public health problem; while Buruli ulcer is reported from all counties.
The UN health agency noted that the goal of NTDs program is to reduce the burden of targeted NTDs to a level that is no longer a public health problem through an integrated control program, contributing to the socio-economic development of Liberia.
Some specific national targets include the elimination of Lymphatic filariasis and Onchocerciasis as a public health problem by 2020; and achieve 75 percent therapeutic coverage of STH and Schistosomiasis in school age children.
Others include reducing the prevalence of leprosy to less than one case per 10,000 populations and increase access to quality diagnosis and case management of Buruli ulcer including provision of free treatment for all affected patients by 2020.