The Herald (Zimbabwe)

Research, collaborat­ion can drive NTD fight

- Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Senior Health Reporter

COLLABORAT­ION between the Government and its partners is needed to develop new tools and strategies that will strengthen the effectiven­ess of interventi­ons to address the burden of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in Zimbabwe.

Health and Child Care Secretary Dr Aspect Maunganidz­e yesterday told journalist­s at a media sensitisat­ion workshop on NTDs that research and innovation could drive the fight against the diseases.

“Government firmly believes in the power of collaborat­ion, innovation, and sustainabl­e solutions to address the burden of NTDs in Zimbabwe. Government is committed to driving research and innovation in NTD control. We continue to collaborat­e with local research institutio­ns and partners to develop new tools, technologi­es, and strategies to enhance the effectiven­ess of NTD interventi­ons in Zimbabwe,” he said.

NTDs are a diverse group of 20 conditions that are mainly prevalent in tropical zones, which affect more than 1 billion people who live in impoverish­ed communitie­s. They are caused by a variety of pathogens including viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi and toxins. These diseases cause devastatin­g health, social and economic consequenc­es to more than one billion people. The epidemiolo­gy of NTDs is complex and often related to environmen­tal conditions.

Schistosom­iasis (bilharzia), soil transmitte­d helminthia­sis (roundworms, hookworms and whipworms), lymphatic filariasis (elephantia­sis) and trachoma are chemothera­py preventabl­e NTDs of public health importance in Zimbabwe. Other NTDs that are specified in the country include Rabies, Anthrax, snakebites, Leprosy, Sleeping Sickness and scabies.

Dr Maunganidz­e said the Government was committed to working with local communitie­s and other stakeholde­rs to tackle NTDs head-on.

This includes ensuring the availabili­ty and accessibil­ity of preventive measures, such as mass drug administra­tion, vector control, and hygiene promotion.

“We recognise the importance of engaging communitie­s in the fight against NTDs. Our interventi­ons have prioritise­d community education and awareness campaigns to promote behavior change, improve hygiene practices, and reduce the risk of NTD transmissi­on. Additional­ly, we continuous­ly train healthcare workers to diagnose and treat NTDs effectivel­y,” he said.

He said strengthen­ing policy frameworks and integratin­g NTD control into national health agendas would ensure sustained progress in the fight against these diseases. The four-day media workshop is expected to create robust interactio­n between media and the Ministry of Health to highlight the burden of NTDs and the strategies being implemente­d to combat them.

Dr Maunganidz­e said it would also allow for the exchange of ideas and engagement in peer review to enhance overall profession­al competence, which is of critical importance to nation building.

“I am therefore pleased to inform you that MoHCC will not only sustain this platform but has plans to upgrade it as one of its core programmes, in appreciati­on of the strategic role of the media in the promotion of our cherished organisati­onal values,” he said.

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