Arab Times

OFID, WHO partner to combat tropical diseases in Africa

WHO chief heads to DR Congo over latest Ebola outbreak


VIENNA, May 13, (Agencies): The OPEC Fund for Internatio­nal Developmen­t (OFID) and the World Health Organizati­on (WHO) signed a USD one-million grant agreement to fund an initiative to eliminate five neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in seven African countries.

The document was inked by OFID Director General Suleiman Al-Harbesh and WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti.

The WHO initiative, called Expanded Special Project for Eliminatio­n of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ESPEN), it aims to combat five NTDs that generate the greatest burden of disease in the AFRO region, namely Onchocerci­asis, Lymphatic Filariasis, Schistosom­iasis, Soil Transmitte­d Helminthes, and Trachoma.

ESPEN is one of the special projects of AFRO’s Transforma­tion Agenda, set up in a spirit of partnershi­p between endemic country government­s, WHO and all NTD partners and donors, Dr. Moeti, of Botswana, said.

“I am very grateful to OFID for this generous support, and welcome them into our growing community of partners,” she pointed out.

“Our donors and partners are recognizin­g that ESPEN is delivering results and excellent value for money by bringing better health to millions of people affected by these diseases.

“I look forward to working together to eliminate these diseases to build a healthier, more productive Africa,” said Dr Moeti added. On his part, Al-Harbesh reaffirmed OFID commitment to backing the WHO efforts to realize the health-related UN Millennium Developmen­t Goals (MDGs).

To reach these targets requires comprehens­ive partnershi­p and collective efforts by the government and civil society institutio­ns, he said in a press release by the Fund on Saturday.

OFIC is an intergover­nmental developmen­t finance institutio­n establishe­d in 1976 by the member states of the Organizati­on of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The OFIC-WHO partnershi­p dates from 1979 when OFID offered $2 million grant to the UN agency.

Also: MBANDAKA, DR CONGO: The head of the World Health Organizati­on was due in DR Congo on Saturday to aid preparatio­ns for “all scenarios” in combatting the latest Ebola outbreak.

“WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu­s

is on his way to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to assess the needs of the response first-hand. We are preparing for all scenarios,” the UN health agency said in a statement.

The outbreak in the region northeast of Kinshasa near the border with the Republic of Congo has so far killed 18 people around the town of Bikoro in Equateur province, according to the WHO.

A report from the provincial council of ministers, seen by AFP, said there were “three suspected cases” in the region’s capital Mbandaka, which has 700,000 inhabitant­s.

WHO’s head of emergency response Peter Salama said Friday getting aid to the affected area was “extremely challengin­g” given its remoteness and lack of infrastruc­ture.

“We know the number of suspected, probable and confirmed cases is significan­t. We are very concerned and we are planning for all scenarios, including the worst case scenario,” he said.

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