To improve global health security, we must not abandon the fight against existing epidemics

More than 600 million people in Africa need treatment for NTDs, representing 35% of the global burden. Credit: Uniting to fight NTDs
  • Notice by Thoko Elphick Pooley (hove, united kingdom)
  • Inter Press Service

The gains that have been made in the fight against these diseases must not be lost or we risk a resurgence of the disease that will be even more costly to treat, which could lead to a catastrophic disease outbreak with massive consequences.

As COVID-19 has demonstrated, health crises do not arise overnight. They are the result of systemic underinvestment in global health, a lack of strong disease surveillance systems capable of detecting epidemics, global data sharing protocols, weak health systems compounded by a lack of pandemic preparedness supported by sustainable funding for global health.

COVID-19 has shown us that it doesn’t matter if you are a low, middle or high income country. If you run out of essential medical supplies, lives will be lost. If you have a critical shortage of health personnel and infrastructure, other essential health services will suffer as resources are diverted to tackle a pandemic. In addition, diseases do not respect borders.

That is why we must not abandon efforts to combat existing epidemics. Take neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), for example, coined as such due to persistent neglect. MTN is the collective name for a group of 20 infectious diseases and conditions. Diseases like blinding trachoma, leprosy, intestinal worms, guinea worm disease and elephantiasis. They blind, deactivate and can even be fatal. These diseases are preventable and treatable, but they still affect 1.7 billion people worldwide. It is a chronic epidemic that is rarely high on anyone’s priority list. They affect the most vulnerable communities in low-resource settings, mainly in Africa.

More than 600 million people in Africa need treatment for NTDs, representing 35% of the global burden. Across the continent, 12 countries are on track to eliminate NTD over the next three years – an extraordinary achievement based on years of needed action.

Vulnerable African communities currently face a triple burden; the pandemic has had a devastating impact on health services; cuts in NTD treatments will make them more vulnerable to tropical diseases, and the prospect that these people will receive a COVID-19 vaccine before 2023 is highly unlikely. This triple threat makes some communities in Africa more vulnerable to future epidemics and increases the risk of a resurgence of the disease, undermining efforts to improve global health security.

It is in the interests of all G7 countries to support the investments that directly underpin our safety, security and economic success – and to help shape a stimulus package that promotes the health and prosperity of people in the world. the world. Only then can we prepare for and deal with future outbreaks of deadly infections.

We welcome the focus by world leaders on One Health, which is a collaborative effort to ensure the health of people, animals and the environment at the local, national and global levels. We urge G7 leaders to go further, beyond focusing on zoonotic diseases and antimicrobial resistance, which is simply not enough to truly prepare for a pandemic.

Future threats to health could develop from different origins, models, natures or impacts. All aspects of One Health must be included if we are to improve global health security, including the fight against other diseases, such as NTDs.

It will be a win-win for people and countries all over the world. Investments in NTDs have been successful with 43 countries having eliminated at least one NTD, of which 17 are in Africa and 600 million people no longer need treatment for them. But the The UK government’s recent exit from support for NTD programs, especially during a pandemic, undermines years of progress and will have a profound impact on millions of Africans.

Today, 184 million tablets in 25 African countries are at high risk of expiring in 2021 and 2022 due to funding cuts. By not putting the fight against NTDs and disease epidemics at the forefront of the global health security agenda, we are risking the lives of our children and their futures. Poverty will increase and access to education will be affected. COVID-19 has shown the world how strongly connected we are and now is the time for disease control to be tackled collectively.

Thoko Elphick-Pooley is executive director of Joining forces to fight neglected tropical diseases

© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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