The Ministry of Health with support from Partners has today launched the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) sustainability agenda for 2020-2025. Uganda is among the countries focusing on Health Systems Strengthening (HSS) as a key component of program sustainability and the first country in the region to develop a sustainability plan for the NTD program.
While launching the agenda at Sheraton Hotel Kampala, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng Ocero noticed that the program has achieved detailed assessment of financial and programmatic records, development of the Uganda NTD program Advocacy strategy, launch of NTDC program sustainability plan in 2021 among others.
Dr. Aceng also set out the country’s strategic direction for NTD programming in collaboration with partners and provided an enabling environment for NTD related program implementation and research to continue.
She attributed all the achievements of the programme to the good coordination of the partners that have been supportive to implementing the Act to End NTDs/ East program through permitting the efficient use of resources and reduced costs, increasing the likelihood of sustainability, developing a stronger base of support by bringing in valuable knowledge and skills, preventing duplication of work among others.
“The partners have done a great job and I would like to thank Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International through the USAID’s Act to End Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) East program and previously ENVISION program, UKAid through ASCEND project, The Carter Center, Sights avers, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI), and Korean government through World vision and we shall continue working together to end the NTDs in Uganda” she said.
She added: “Government gives UGX 460Bn to the health sector every financial year and the rest of the funding is partner support, therefore the Government will work together with the partners to ensure sustainability in the Health sector and prevention of the Neglected Tropical diseases.”
The neglected diseases in Uganda include Lymphatic Filariasis (LF), leprosy, schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthes, sleeping sickness.
Since 2007, USAID has supported Uganda’s Ministry of Health (MoH) to reach the country’s NTD control and elimination goals, with a focus on scaling up mass treatment for all five diseases and helping to strengthen Uganda’s integrated platform for NTD interventions. As a result, Uganda is within reach of elimination goals for LF, trachoma, and onchocerciasis and has made substantial gains towards the control of schistosomiasis and soil transmitted helminth infections.
Dr. Alfred Mubangizi, the assistant Commissioner in charge of the Vector Borne and Neglected tropical diseases at the Ministry of Health said that the strategy is going to fill up the gaps which will need funding.
There is need to support the end for Neglected Tropical Diseases and if funding can be increased to cover 30% of NTDs, this will reduce on the rising cases of such diseases countrywide.
Dr. Mubangizi also said that the Ministry will conduct a customized workshop and on-job training sessions on how to process, analyze and package Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) data so as to inform financial decision making by enhancing technical capacity in managing financial data availability, quality and completeness that will put in place tracking and reporting mechanisms.
Prof. Freddie Sengooba who is the Chair of Health Policy Planning & Management (HPPM) also provided a review on financing landscape of the NTD program and how the Neglected Tropical Diseases can be eliminated in Uganda.
He said that it is important to have vertical programs since it is one of the ways that resources can come in fast and do more of the elimination work in the Health sector. “Verticalization can be managed by reaching out to other sectors that will help in the in the elimination of the NTDs rather than relying on only the Health Ministry” he noted.
He further pointed out on the issue of branding which he noted how important it is in solving the issue of the diseases especially in rural areas where people are still ignorant.
“Branding is an important aspect that needs to be used by indicating the key messages so that the people in the rural areas are aware of the diseases and find a way of combating them,” Prof. Sengooba said.
Dr. Bayo Fatunmbi, who represented the World Health Organization (WHO) at the function, emphasized the need to address the challenges affecting the elimination of NTDs and other Diseases. He noted the need for strong collaboration with the Health Ministry and need to be part of the sustainability in financing the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).
He noted that there is need to talk about the achievements while talking about sustainability and putting emphasis on advocating and mobilizing sustainable financing for NTDs.
He added: “We need to think outside the box, to be innovative as well as evidence based and this will ensure sustainability of funding NTDs.”
The Ministry of Health will continue working in close collaboration with partners such as USAID that have been providing support to Uganda to monitor interventions and contribute to sustenance of the progress that has so far been made in NTDs programming.