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Another African nation eliminates sleeping sickness

The World Health Organization has congratulated Chad for eradicating the neglected tropical disease

The World Health Organization (WHO) has commended Chad for successfully eliminating the gambiense form of human African trypanosomiasis, commonly referred to as sleeping sickness.

It’s the first country this year to be recognized for eliminating a neglected tropical disease. The WHO has set a target for 100 countries to have eliminated neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2030, and Chad has become the 51st.

“I congratulate the government and the people of Chad for this achievement. It is great to see Chad join the growing group of countries that have eliminated at least one NTD,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday. He added that the 100-country goal is now “nearer and within reach.”

Sleeping disease is transmitted to humans through the bite of a tsetse fly (Glossina) infected with a parasite. The tsetse fly is found in Sub-Saharan Africa, and only certain species can transmit the disease. It starts with flu-like symptoms but can escalate to cause behavioral changes, confusion, sleep disturbances, and even coma, frequently leading to death.

“The elimination of the gambiense form of human African trypanosomiasis in Chad reflects our commitment to improving the health of our people,” said Chadian Health Minister Abdel Modjid Abderahim Mahamat. He attributed the milestone to years of persistent efforts by health workers, communities, and partners.

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The minister said Chad would maintain this momentum to address other neglected tropical diseases and secure a healthier future for its citizens.

Chad has joined the ranks of countries validated by the WHO for eliminating sleeping sickness, alongside Togo (2020), Benin (2021), Cote d’Ivoire (2021), Uganda (2022), Equatorial Guinea (2022), and Ghana (2023). Rwanda was also recognized by the WHO in 2022 for eliminating the rhodesiense form of the disease.

As of June 2024, according to a WHO report, 20 countries in the African region have successfully eliminated at least one neglected tropical disease. Notably, Togo has eradicated four diseases, while Benin and Ghana have each eliminated three.

NTDs are caused by a variety of pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, and toxins, and are linked to severe health, social, and economic repercussions, according to the WHO. Predominantly affecting impoverished communities in tropical regions, some NTDs have a wider geographical reach. It is estimated that NTDs impact over 1 billion people worldwide. These diseases include Buruli ulcer, Chagas disease, dengue and chikungunya, dracunculiasis, echinococcosis, foodborne trematodiases, human African trypanosomiasis, and others.

June 22, 2024 at 03:49PM

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