Christabel Addo, GNA
Accra, March 7, GNA - Stakeholders of the COUNTDOWN Project have converged in Accra to discuss research findings on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and implement appropriate strategies towards addressing those issues at the district level.
The COUNTDOWN (Calling time on Neglected Tropical Diseases, is a five-year DFID funded multi-country project, which is being implemented in Ghana, Cameroon, Liberia and Nigeria.
Also involve are districts in the Greater Accra, Western and Northern regions where NTDs such as Onchocerciasis, trachoma, bilharzia, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis and intestinal worms were widespread.
Dr Benjamin Kofi Marfo, the Acting Programme Manager of NTDs, said at the opening of the meeting on Wednesday that Ghana was endemic for 12 out of the group of 17 NTDs designated by the World Health Organisation that affected populations, particularly in rural areas and remote communities.
He said the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service have been implementing a programme of activities to control and eliminate those diseases through the NTDs Programme with support from international donors and partners.
Dr Marfo said having been in operation for the past three years, the Ghana COUNTDOWN Team, consisting of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s Water Research Institute, Dodowa Health Research and the NTD Programme, decided to engage with its partners and other stakeholders to discuss their research findings.
He said the NTDs indicators for integration into the District Health Information Management System would also be discussed with the Policy Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation of the GHS.
Ms Rachael Thompson, a Senior Programme Manager of COUNTDOWN, commended Ghana and all its partners for the efforts and gains made so far.
She said since the institution of the COUNTDOWN Project in 2014 to help reduce morbidity, mortality and poverty associated with NTDs, a lot of progress had been made through increased knowledge and evidence.
This is to support cost-effectiveness, scale-up interventions, and enhance sustainable control of the elimination of the diseases as a public health problem.
Dr Michael Osei-Atwneneboana, a Researcher with the CSIR, said his outfit, in collaboration with the COUNTDOWN Project and partners from the Global Polio Laboratory Network, had conceived the innovative idea of using faecal samples already collected for polio testing, to screen for NTDs such as schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis.
He said the study demonstrated a potential way forward in the monitoring and control of NTDs that could be adapted and included in the legacy plan of the Global Polio Laboratory Network.
Dr Osei-Atwneneboana called for more collaboration between groups and organisations that were tackling NTDs, especially those diseases with a similar epidemiology and sample analysis.
He said the challenge was that NTDs affected the poorest of the global population, and was often termed “the bottom billion”, therefore any efforts that could reduce costs and streamline surveillance would be of benefit.
Dr Osei-Atwneneboana, however, said the health economics of the financial benefits of using the Global Polio Laboratory Network to screen for schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis had not yet been carried out, but this would be important to inform policy decision on the cost effectiveness of the current approach.