“Sustainability has to do with the whole agenda…it requires collective effort...to sustain an activity” -Dr. Joyce Aryee, Ghana NTD Ambassador
For many years, the entire neglected tropical disease (NTD) community focused almost exclusively on achieving an overarching goal—control and elimination of disease. While this approach, focused on meeting disease-specific targets, was successful in many ways, a more robust approach is needed to truly secure the end of NTDs.
Many ministries of health are committing to a more holistic, sustainable approach to accelerate the end of NTDs. Ghana, which eliminated guinea worm in 2015 and became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to eliminate trachoma in 2018, is no different.
For the Ghana NTD program (NTDP), sustainability involves enhanced multisectoral collaboration to overcome human resources and funding challenges, improve health sector coordination, and increase access to clean water and sanitation, among other objectives. On June 10, 2019, the NTDP hosted a national stakeholder sensitization meeting on NTD sustainability in Accra, with support from USAID’s Act to End NTDs | West program (Act | West). Their goals for the meeting: establish a shared understanding of NTDs and NTD sustainability objectives among their public and private stakeholders and foster cross-sector connections.
Chaired by Dr. Joyce Aryee, Ghana’s NTD Ambassador, and officiated by Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Director General of the Ghana Health Services at the time, representatives from the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources; Ministry of Education; and Ghana Health Services attended the meeting along with non-governmental organizations, civil society, the media, USAID, and the United Nations. Many Ministry of Health (MoH) program areas—NTDs, malaria, nutrition—participated, as well.
Taking advantage of the unprecedented opportunity to engage with this diverse audience, top NTDP officials discussed how NTDs threaten public health and the country’s economic potential (e.g., possible workforce reduction and undue morbidity costs). Officials stressed the crucial need for integrating NTD activities into Ghana’s national health system as a means of controlling or eliminating NTDs. Referring to mass drug administration (MDA)—an effective NTD treatment strategy—to illustrate this point, Dr. Nsiah-Asare said, “MDA can’t do it alone, we need inter-sectoral collaboration on proper sanitation and hygiene facilities.”
As the stakeholders discussed topics including “What does Ghana Beyond Aid [a national development initiative of Ghana President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo] mean in the context of NTDs?”, and renewed their commitment to domestic financial sustainability, they gained a better understanding of the relationship between NTDP priorities and national objectives. These discussions contributed to broad recognition of the importance of NTDs among a diverse group of key stakeholders as well as a shared understanding of barriers to NTD sustainability and alignment on steps for new solutions. By the meeting's end, participants developed 30- and 60-day action plans to advance NTD sustainability in Ghana.
After the meeting, and per the 30-day plan, the NTDP, with Act | West support, analyzed the NTD landscape to identify key NTD sustainability stakeholders, barriers, and opportunities in Ghana. The analysis will inform the NTDP’s assessment of program sustainability and milestones, and serve as a key input to Ghana’s NTD sustainability plan.
The 60-day plan called for the revitalization of the previously dormant Intra-Country Coordination Committee (ICCC) to serve as a multisector platform for NTD coordination. Following those recommendations, in 2020, with support from Act | West, the NTDP led a consultative road map development process to identify priorities and interventions for the ICCC, including multisectoral engagement and coordination of the sustainability plan implementation. The ICCC was then revamped, approved, and relaunched by the Minister of Health Kwaku Agyemang-Manu in October 2020.
With the ICCC in place, the NTD Ambassador will continue her engagement to increase NTD visibility. In 2021, she plans to host a high-level stakeholder event to raise the profile of Ghana’s NTD sustainability plan among government officials and international donors.
Ghana’s NTD sustainability sensitization meeting demonstrated how early multisectoral engagement promotes collaboration and is key to sustaining NTD control and elimination achievements over the long term. By bringing critical stakeholders together to establish a shared understanding of the barriers to NTD progress, agree on the need for collaboration, and coordinate action to continue toward NTD control and elimination, Ghana's sensitization meeting served as a catalyst for ramping up progress toward NTD sustainability in Ghana.
Learn more about Ghana’s recent sensitization meeting:
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Act to End NTDs | West program supports the elimination of seven neglected tropical diseases (NTD) in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. The program seeks to build upon the achievements of USAID’s END in Africa and ENVISION projects in West Africa, continuing efforts to eliminate lymphatic filariasis, trachoma, and (in selected countries) onchocerciasis as public health problems. It also aims to strengthen national NTD program capacity to sustain treatment for long-term control of schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis, and three types of soil-transmitted helminthiasis (caused by hookworms, roundworms and whipworms), and to mainstream NTD programs into national health systems.