Elimination of neglected infectious diseases requires multi-stakeholder effort – forum hears

GINA, GUYANA, Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Efforts are currently being pursued to eliminate Neglected Infectious Diseases (NIDs) in Guyana by 2020. The Ministry of Public Health’s Vector Control Services (VCS) today hosted a meeting for stakeholders aimed at strengthening support for the National action plan for NIDs.

Dr. Horace Cox, Director of Vector Control Services, Ministry of Public Health

NIDs also known as Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of tropical infections which are especially common in low-income populations in developing regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. They are caused by a variety of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, protozoa and helminthes. These diseases include Leprosy, Lymphatic Filariasis, American Trypanosomiasis or Chagas ’ disease (a tropical parasitic disease) and Leishmaniasis (caused by protozoan parasites of the genus Leishmania, spread by the bite of infectious sandflies).

The relevant stakeholders were engaged in discussions to also create a strategy in ending NIDs in the Americas. Director of the VCS Unit, Dr. Horace Cox along with other health officials emphasised the need for a multi-stakeholder and cross sectoral approach in achieving this goal in a timely manner.

Dr. Cox, speaking at the event at the Regency Suites, Hadfield Street explained that the VCS employs the personnel and secures other needed resources to ensure that this public health problem is addressed. He said, “It cannot be done solely by us (VCS), therefore we shall all share in the success as we plan the way forward.”

Dr. Samantha Kennedy, Technical Advisor to the Minister within the ministry of Public Health

The Ministry of Public Health plans to up the use of safe and effective diagnostic tools and interventions that are available for the control of each of the NIDs in Guyana. Additionally, surveillance and monitoring will become more effective. An evaluation system for tracking progress on a regular basis, especially based on performance indicators, will also form part of the strategy to combat NIDs.

Technical advisor to the Minister within the Ministry of Public health, Dr. Samantha Kennedy said that stakeholder fora like these accommodate the collective efforts and ideas of concerned participants.

“The Ministry of Public Health recognises that in order to comprehensively address NIDs in Guyana, it needs to strengthen even further primary healthcare systems as platforms for the national control programmes and capacity building through implementation of those programmes. The establishment of close partnerships with international donors like Global Fund …PAHO/WHO, pharmaceutical industries, communities, and non-governmental developmental organisations is very essential,” Dr. Kennedy explained.

Dr. Jean Alexandre, Technical Advisor to PAHO/WHO on Malaria and other infectious diseases in Guyana

Intensified initiatives in the hinterland areas will serve as entry points for strengthening primary health care services and provide a catalyst for health-care development, Dr Kennedy added. This, she said, remains part of the Public Health Ministry’s commitment to integrate national disease control programmes into the general public health system.

The objective of the meeting was generally aimed at building and fostering relationships with various stakeholders to raise awareness related to the elimination of NIDs prevalence in Guyana. Moreover, stakeholders at the meeting were expected to work towards updating the national existing approach to NIDs and to review current operational researches, identify needs and to address them.

The Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) continues to play a major role in developing the public health sector in Guyana. Dr. Jean Alexandre who is the technical advisor to the organisation on Malaria and other infectious diseases in Guyana said that the possibility of eliminating these diseases is being realised.

Dr. Alexandre noted that, “All NIDs, all neglected infectious diseases are subject or are being targeted worldwide for elimination. When people speak about STH (Soil Transmitted Helminthes) (for example) elimination we look at it and say this is impossible, but this is exactly what the countries aim to do.”

By: Delicia Haynes