Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 February 2019:
Sierra Leone is turning the corner in its efforts to combat disease, after over 5,000 people were killed by the deadly Ebola virus in 2013-2015.
The country’s poor healthcare systems fell under the weight of the Epidemic because of decades of neglect, lack of resources, corruption and lack of political leadership.
But things are changing fast in Sierra Leone now, with the new government increasing its spending on healthcare and the international community having invested hundreds of millions of dollars in establishing early warning systems that will diagnose and prevent a repeat of the horrors witnessed in 2013-2015. The country’s hospitals and community health centres have been upgraded.
Early this week, Sierra Leone’s ministry of information published a statement, announcing that the country “is among three African countries with modest national incomes that are outperforming some richer nations on the continent in the fight against diseases of poverty known as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), according to a new league table ranking.”
The statement also said: “The new league table shows that three countries with modest national incomes – Malawi, Sierra Leone and Togo – have, for the third year running, reported high treatment levels of NTDs to those in need across the five diseases.
“The WHO reckons that if countries consistently treat and protect more than 75% of people needing care, across the five diseases (blinding trachoma; intestinal worms; the mosquito-borne elephantiasis; snail-borne bilharzia; and river blindness), they are on track to beating the diseases. Malawi, Sierra Leone and Togo all reached the 75% average target.
“All three nations are in the ‘lower income’ bracket of the UN Human Development Index, a broad measure of national wealth.
“NTDs such as blinding trachoma, the leading cause of infectious blindness, or intestinal worms that can stunt growth in children, are endemic in poor communities without access to clean water and with inadequate sewerage systems. The diseases affect 1.6 billion people worldwide – that’s one in five on the planet – including over 600 million people in Africa.
“NTDs rarely make headline news because they tend to afflict the poorest and most marginalised communities. However African Heads of State have put a spotlight on them at the current AU Summit through the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), a forum that tracks the fight against malaria and, since 2018, also reviews the fight against NTDs.
Speaking at the AU Summit this week, Ghana’s president Akufo-Addo said: “We cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals without addressing the needs of the poorest members of our society who are disproportionately affected by neglected tropical diseases. I urge my fellow African leaders to prioritise ending these diseases of poverty on the continent.”