"I Was Blind, But Now I See" Celebrating Malawis Progress on World NTD Day — Global Issues

Vainesi, a former trachoma patient, cheers when she learns that trachoma has been eliminated in Malawi. Vainesi suffered from trachoma pain for 10 years before a local disability campaigner encouraged her to go to the hospital for treatment.
  • Opinion by Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera (lilongwe)
  • Associated Press Service

Vainesi is one of millions of Malawi with me celebrating a historic milestone – in October, Malawi became the first country in southern Africa to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem.

Trachoma is a bacterial eye infection that causes severe swelling and scarring of the eyelids and is the world’s leading cause of blindness from the infection. Most recently in 2015, 7.6 million people in Malawi were at risk of this disease, but now this threat has been removed from our land. I would like to express special gratitude to all our partners and friends in Malawi who have supported our efforts in the fight against trachoma.

Our success in eliminating trachoma came shortly after another successful elimination. Two years ago, in 2020, we also eliminated lymphatic filariasis, a mosquito-borne parasitic disease that leads to swelling and disability.

Both trachoma and lymphatic filariasis are neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), a group of 20 diseases and conditions that cause incalculable suffering and affect more than a billion people worldwide. . These diseases disproportionately affect people living in rural areas, such as Vainesi, and often plunge those affected into poverty.

Today, as countries around the globe celebrate World NTD Day 2023, I would like to reaffirm Malawi’s commitment to ending the burden of these diseases in our country and improving the quality of life. people’s lives. And I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved so far.

More children will go to school and reach their full potential. Malawi’s 2063 vision of a rich, industrialized, inclusive and self-reliant nation, able to stand up among nations, will be fully realized.

It takes healthy people who can fully participate in economic development to make this a reality. Investing in NTD removal programs creates spillover effects in society. It leads to better education, health and employment outcomes, and transforms lives and communities.

Individuals like Vainesi of Salima County, who are no longer indoors and cannot be seen, are a prime example of the incredible extent of this transformation. This is why it is important that preventable diseases that limit the potential of individuals to play an active role as proud citizens can be eliminated.

The return on investment we’ve seen in fighting these diseases is both powerful and far-reaching. These same health systems are now being leveraged to make steady progress against several other NTDs, including river blindness and schistosomiasis. What we know now is that progress against one NTD accelerates progress against other NTDs, creating momentum and producing results. Of the 20 NTDs in existence, today only 6 are in Malawi.

Other countries in Africa are also having great success using this approach. Just this August, Togo celebrated the elimination of four incredible tropical diseases since 2011—trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, human African fascioliasis, and Guinea worm disease.

However, there is still much work to be done – especially in South Africa. An estimated 190 million people need treatment for at least one NTD among the 16 member countries that include the South African Development Community (SADC).

Malawi is the only SADC country that has eliminated NTDs, and the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened hard-to-reach progress. Coordinated action is needed to spur action against NTDs and prevent future health threats from these years of progress being unraveled.

But my message is one of hope – and the importance of giving commitment and accountability. This is why, I am proud to lead my country Malawi in endorsing the Kigali Declaration on NTD – a high-level political statement that is helping to mobilize political will and secure commitments against NTD, along with Botswana, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, United Republic of Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Uganda and Vanuatu.

The theme of World Consumer Day 2023 includes an important message: “Act now. Act together. Invest in NTD.” I want to see the names of all the countries in SADC in this list. When countries work together to lead efforts to eliminate NTDs, a lot can be achieved. So today, I call on the Heads of State in southern Africa to endorse the Kigali Declaration on NTDs – and commit to it.

We are 100% committed to terminating NTD. Join us in our commitment to building a healthier, happier future.

© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service


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