MDP Side Event - WHO AFRO RC 67

13 September 2017

Top MDP side event participants including (L-R) Dr. Matshidiso Moeti (WHO AFRO), Dr. Dave Ross (Task Force for Global Health), Hon. Ministers of Health Drs. Osagie Ehanire (Nigeria) and Sarah Achieng Opendi (Uganda), Dr. Sodahlon (MDP), Drs. Magaran Monzon Bagayoko and Maria Rebollo (WHO AFRO). 

 Side Event Highlights

The Mectizan Donation Program (MDP) recently co-hosted a side event during the 67th World Health Organization African Regional Office (WHO AFRO) Regional Committee meeting to commemorate 30 years of Mectizan donation for river blindness and lymphatic filariasis (LF). MDP took the opportunity to advocate to an audience of ministers of health for the control and elimination of NTDs in Africa and to recognize Togo for becoming the first country in Africa to achieve LF elimination.

Honorable Ministers of Health Cameroon, Nigeria and Uganda made remarks on behalf of their countries' onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis (LF) elimination programs.

Hon. State Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, from Nigeria stated: "...as a leading contributor to the burden of NTDs, we receive the largest shipment of Mectizan for river blindness and LF. In 2016 alone, 262 million tablets were donated for use in poor, rural, and NTD endemic areas. Therefore, MDP is one of our most outstanding partnerships towards the elimination of NTDs in our country. MDP is an important contributor of interventions, which aligns with our primary health care efforts as we seek to provide Nigerians with access to basic health services....as a result of your donations, millions of Nigerians under 30 [years of age] have their sight intact and have escaped stigmatization caused by untreated NTDs... we also commend GSK for their efforts and donation of albendazole for combined treatment to eliminate LF... I assure you of our continued commitment to this partnership as we work toward the elimination targets."

Hon. Minister Sarah Achieng Opendi of Uganda reminded participants that Uganda is still the "pearl of Africa" and also stated "Uganda has 17 foci and 6.7 million people at risk of onchocerciasis....cross border transmission remains a concern as Uganda borders DRC to the west and South Sudan to the north. Despite these challenges, transmission has been interrupted in 15 of the 17 [onchocerciasis] endemic foci in Uganda." Uganda was an early adopter of the paradigm shift from control of onchocerciasis to elimination. Opendi further commented "Uganda would support a new resolution [for onchocerciasis elimination] in 2018 to replace WHA resolution 47.12 from 1994 as we believe this support would go a long way to support countries to eliminate transmission and it would also garner support to intensify support for resource mobilization to address cross border collaboration and harmonization...[it would also] help address innovations needed for last mile challenges and it would safeguard achievements made toward onchocerciasis control in Africa. 

Cameroon's minister of health, Hon. Minister Mama Fouda André, stated “based on the surveys conducted in Mali and Senegal, it is believed that the interruption of transmission of onchocerciasis can be now achieved using ivermectin treatment. As a result, with the support from the WHO and other partners, almost all endemic countries in the continent are putting in place their elimination committees.” Fouda called for other partners to join MSD’s effort to continue their support to countries in their efforts to eliminate onchocerciasis. He finally asked Dr. Moeti, WHO AFRO’s Regional Director, to consider his request for a new WHA resolution for the elimination of the transmission of onchocerciasis.  
 
Finally, Togo received an award from Dr. Dave Ross, CEO of the Task Force for Global Health (TFGH), given on behalf of MSD, GSK, MDP, and TFGH for becoming the first country in Africa to eliminate LF as public health problem. Dr. Afeignindou Gnassingbe, Minister Adviser from the Permanent Mission of Togo to the United Nations in Geneva accepted the award on Togo's behalf. 
 
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the ministers who attended and to give a special thanks to the ministers from Cameroon, Nigeria, and Uganda for participating. We’d also like to thank Dr. Moeti for her participation and Dr. Mwele Malecela, Director, WHO AFRO, for serving as emcee for the event.

*MSD is known as Merck & Co., Inc, Kenilworth, N.J., USA in the United States and Canada