In a concerted effort to tackle Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) head-on, the Edo State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (EDSPHCDA) in partnership with the Carter Centre hosted a 2-day workshop on the Development of the Edo State Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Master Plan, which was climaxed with the Inauguration of the Edo State NTD Technical Advisory Committee.

The event was held from 4th to 5th April 2024, at John Odigie Oyegun Public Service Academy (JOOPSA), Benin City.

The workshop aims to establish and inaugurate the Edo State NTD Technical Advisory Committee, outline its terms of reference, provide updates on NTDs in the State, present guidelines for the NTD Master Plan, and develop the State’s NTD Master Plan.

Notably, the role of the State Technical Steering Committee is to guide the State in the implementation of NTD control in the State.

The Edo State Honourable Commissioner for Health, Dr. Samuel Alli officially inaugurated the committee which comprises the Academia led by Professor Mrs. Vivian Omuemu, Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine UNIBEN/UBTH, as Co-Chair, Dr.Omosigho Izedonmwen, Executive Secretary, EDSPHCDA, as Co-Chair, while Dr. Efeomon Eseigbe, Director, Disease Control and Immunization, EDSPHCDA, is the Secretary of the Committee.

Other members of the Committee were drawn from relevant line Ministries: the Edo State Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Edo State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Ministry of Communication and Orientation, Ministry of Budget and Planning, Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA), The Carter Center, World Health Organisation (WHO) and Edo State NTD Coordinator.

In his opening speech on the occasion of the inauguration of the State NTD Technical Advisory Committee, the Honourable Commissioner for Health, Edo State, Dr. Samuel Alli said the inauguration of the State’s Steering Committee for Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) control underscores the ministry’s commitment to the health and well-being of Edo people.

He appreciated the Carter Centre for their support over the years as well as the World Health Organization for their role in NTD control in the State

While speaking on “The Challenge of Neglected Tropical Diseases”, Dr. Alli said, “Neglected Tropical Diseases are a group of debilitating illnesses that disproportionately affect the world’s most vulnerable populations. These diseases thrive in poverty-stricken areas, where access to healthcare is limited, and resources are scarce. Edo State, like many other regions, faces the burden of NTDs, impacting the lives of our citizens and hindering socio-economic development.”

The Honourable Commissioner for Health highlighted Edo State Government’s concerted collaborative efforts in the fight against NTDs, noting that its partnership with the Carter Center has been instrumental in advancing its goals.

He further shared some key achievements of the Godwin Obaseki-led Government which include:

1. Guinea Worm Eradication: The Carter Center-led campaign has averted at least 80 million cases of Guinea worm disease among the world’s poorest people. This remarkable achievement demonstrates our commitment to eliminating this devastating disease.

2. Distribution of Medicines: With the assistance of The Carter Center, we have distributed over 800 million doses of medicine to prevent NTDs. These efforts have reached even the most remote communities, ensuring equitable access to treatment.

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3. River Blindness Control: Our collaboration has facilitated the distribution of more than 500 million Mectizan® treatments in Africa and the Americas. Together, we are stamping out this dreadful parasitic infection.

4. Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination: We are working tirelessly to eliminate this debilitating parasitic disease from areas of Ethiopia, Nigeria, and the island of Hispaniola. Our approach incorporates mental health components, recognizing the link between disfigurement and stigma.

5. Schistosomiasis Education and Treatment: Our long-running initiative in Nigeria has significantly reduced blood in schoolchildren’s urine—a telltale sign of schistosomiasis infection.

On “The Road Ahead”, Dr. Alli Said, “As we inaugurate the State Steering Committee for NTD control, let us reaffirm our commitment to the health of our people. Together, we will:

– Strengthen surveillance and early detection.

– Improve access to treatment and preventive measures.

– Raise awareness about NTDs and combat stigma.

– Collaborate with communities, healthcare providers, and partners.

“Our journey to control and eliminate NTDs is not without challenges, but with unwavering dedication and strategic partnerships, we can transform the landscape of public health in Edo State.”

“Let us march forward, guided by compassion, science, and the vision of a healthier, more resilient future for all,” he remarked.

Mrs. Happy Poko, Edo NTD Coordinator, spoke on the progress of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in the state hereafter, the State Technical Advisory Committee split into groups to develop the NTD Master Plan for Edo State.

On her part, the Co-chair of the Technical Steering Committee, Prof Vivian Omuemu, gave an acceptance speech on behalf of the committee and thanked the State government for finding the committee members worthy of the role. She pledged to ensure that NTDs were brought to the barest minimum in the State by 2027 when the current State NTD control master plan ends.