By Adriana Opong
On Thursday, 15th October 2015, the Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Programme under the Public Health Division of the Ghana Health Service officially launched the COUNTDOWN Programme in Ghana. In attendance were key stakeholders and the NTD national Ambassador Dr. Joyce Aryee as the chair for the launch. The Director-General of the Ghana Health Service and a representative of the Minister of Health were also present.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana’s commitment to the elimination and management of NTDs is in an advance stage. The NTD Programme treats over 12 million people for onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis and over 4 million school – aged children for schistomiasis and soil helminthiasis annually. But there still remain cases and issues of hotspots areas of infection for both lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis, access to medication for some of the diseases is still limited and a more integrated approach to a single programme is required.
In the her acceptance speech, Dr. Joyce Aryee, the chair explained that NTDs are a class of diseases that can be eliminated, and that the launch of COUNTDOWN represents the last lap towards riding Ghana off the NTD burden of morbidity and mortality.
Within the COUNTDOWN Programme, the project activities in Ghana’s will include:
- Filling the gap with Implementation Research
- Integration at the different levels of health systems, NTDs programmes within and beyond the health sectors
- Assessing and informing the equity, efficiency and sustainability of current NTD approaches
- Looking for strategies on dealing with the issue of hotspots
- Linking research to policy through dialogue and consultation
The implementing partners in the COUNTDOWN Project Ghana, are the NTD Programme of the Ghana Health Service, The Dodowa Health Research Centre (DHRC), and the Ghana Health Service and the Water Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The Ghana management team is under the leadership of Dr Nana- Kwadwo Biritwum, the Programme Manager, Dr. Margaret Gyapong the Director of the Dodowa Health Research Centre and Dr. Mike Osei- Atweneboana.
Dr. Ebenezer Appiah-Denkyira in his welcome address said, “We need not wait for Neglected Tropical Diseases to create epidemics before we take action on Neglected Tropical Diseases this will no longer be neglected”. A representative of the Minister of Health delivered the keynote address for the launch. The overview of the COUNTDOWN programme and a message from the Director, COUNTDOWN was presented by Julie Irving.