African states honoured for beating neglected tropical diseases

July 2023

Benin and Ghana, two of the countries where Sightsavers works, have been recognised for their success in wiping out several diseases that are prevalent in poor and marginalised communities.

To recognise their achievement of eliminating three neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), both nations were presented with awards during a meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Sunday 9 July. The awards were presented by Umaro Sissoco Embaló, president of Guinea-Bissau and chairman of ECOWAS, and Thoko Elphick-Pooley, executive director of Uniting to Combat NTDs.

Sightsavers has been a key player in helping to eliminate trachoma – an NTD that can cause irreversible blindness – as a public health problem in Benin and Ghana, as well as other African states such as The Gambia, Malawi and Mali. In Benin, this means that 3.4 million people are no longer at risk of going blind from the disease, while in Ghana, 2.8 million people are no longer at risk of losing their sight.

Sightsavers staff have been supporting these countries to tackle the disease through activities such as distributing medication, training ophthalmic surgeons and carrying out eye operations on patients with advanced trachoma. The organisation has also worked to strengthen health systems in both countries so they’re better able to cope with trachoma and other diseases in the long run.

Sightsavers chief executive Caroline Harpersaid: “Eliminating just one neglected tropical disease is a massive achievement; ending the scourge of three takes outstanding commitment and collaboration.

“Congratulations to Benin and Ghana, their governments, health workers, volunteers and the organisations who made this happen, of which Sightsavers is proud to be a part. The benefits will ripple through society, breaking a vicious cycle of pain and stigma, and enabling more people to earn and more children to learn.”

Sightsavers is currently supporting governments in many other African countries to beat trachoma, as well as other NTDs such as river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis and intestinal worms.

Children in Malawi queue up to have their eyes checked by an eye health worker.

What are NTDs?

Neglected tropical diseases are a major cause of preventable blindness around the world. We treat and prevent five debilitating diseases, including trachoma, river blindness and intestinal worms.

About our NTD work
From left: Benin President Patrice Talon; Guinea-Bissau President Umaro Sissoco Embaló; Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo; ECOWAS Commission President Alieu Touray; and Thoko Elphick-Pooley, Uniting to Combat NTDs. Photo © Danilo Vaz

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