The Sierra Leone National Neglected Tropical Disease program (NNTDP) and Helen Keller Intl have added their voices to the call for a concerted approach to sustain investments in the fight to eliminate and control neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in Sierra Leone.
The 2023 World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day (WNTDD) theme is: “Act now. Act together. Invest in NTDs” which is the third edition to be held in Sierra Leone since the 2012 London Declaration on neglected tropical diseases.
Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) through its National Neglected Tropical disease program week-long activity which commenced on January 25, started with a robust media campaign and was followed by a walk in Makeni town aimed at raising awareness on NTDs, which is translated in Krio as: “Waka for don away with Big fut En Blen Yai” held over the weekend on Saturday, 28th January 2023.
Shortly afterward, a team comprising the Chief Medical Officer in the MoHS, Dr. Alie Wurie and Helen Keller INTL Country Director in Sierra Leone, Sugandh Juneja visited one of the two remaining bastions of big fut – Kagbo and Matok and interacted with a cross-section of persons suffering from NTD complications.
Early, on the 30th January, a panel discussion, titled, “Road to the Elimination of NTDs in Sierra Leone: Prospects, Challenges, and Way Forward”, was held at the Africell American Corner on Bathurst Street in Freetown.
Panelists included Dr. Alie Wurie, Deputy Chief Medical Officer in the MoHS, Hon. Ibrahim Sesay a consultant Entomologist and former Deputy Minister MoHS and Mohamed Bah, NTDs Program Director, Helen Keller Intl. The BBC’s Umaru Fofana moderated the panel discussion.
“We need to think through what investments are needed for Sierra Leone to maintain the tremendous gains,” said Sungandh Juneja, Helen Keller Intl Sierra Leone Country Director.
“For the past 15 years, USAID has been the largest donor investing in the elimination of these deadly but preventable diseases in Sierra Leone and many other countries,” revealed Juneja adding that “We urge all development partners to join the fight against the elimination of these old age diseases, for, alone we can do so little, together we can achieve a lot”.
Neglected Tropical diseases—often called diseases of poverty—is an umbrella term for 20 communicable diseases that cause devastating and disproportionate suffering– particularly women and children who often lack access to basic health care services. Sierra Leone has worked over the past decades to eliminate or control four NTDs: lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis and soil-transmitted helminths.
“Today we celebrate the fact that 95% of Sierra Leoneans are no longer at risk for lymphatic filariasis locally called Big fut, and are sustaining the fight against other neglected tropical diseases, such as river blindness and schistosomiasis. USAID is pleased to partner with Sierra Leone and encourages each one of us to reflect and find ways not only to maintain achievements to date, but to devise innovative solutions to address remaining bottlenecks to eliminate these diseases,” said Nancy Godfrey, USAID/Sierra Leone Country Representative.