Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) affect more than 1.5 billion people worldwide, perpetuating cycles of disease and poverty in vulnerable populations. In 2019 in Senegal, it was estimated that almost 8 million children and adults were at risk and in need of medicine to prevent or treat NTDs. However, the Government of Senegal is making strides against the 13 endemic NTDs that burden children and adults in the country with socio-economic consequences such as disability, stigma, and malnutrition, keeping children out of school and parents out of work.
The Ministry of Health and Social Action (MSAS) through its National NTD Control Program (NTDP) has committed to effectively combating these diseases by setting targets for control, elimination, or eradication by 2030 in alignment with the global guidelines set by the WHO 2021 – 2030 Roadmap for NTDs. Senegal is on track for the preparation of its elimination dossier for trachoma and aims to stop mass drug administration for onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis by 2025. These goals align with Senegal’s validated 2021 – 2023 Sustainability Plan for NTD interventions (Plan de Pérennisation des Acquis de la Lutte contre les Maladies Tropicales Négligées au Sénégal), demonstrating the commitment of the government and partners from all sectors to move the needle towards a Senegal free from the burden of NTDs.
Homing in on this commitment, on August 17, 2021, the Director of Disease Control, on behalf of the Minister of Health and Social Action, officially launched the National Committee for the Fight against NTDs (le Comité National de Lutte contre les MTN). This multisector coordination platform will accelerate programmatic action for NTDs by strengthening intra-sectoral and inter-sectoral collaboration and coordination across the government sectors as well as with research institutes, civil society, the private sector, development partners, NGOs, and associations of people affected by NTDs. It will raise the visibility of NTDs at the national level, ensuring advocacy for resource mobilization and awareness-raising. Just as the impact of NTDs extends beyond physical health into mental health, livelihoods, education, and environment, sectors and programs within and beyond health are uniting to accelerate the fight and achieve this vision.
Addressing NTDs requires a robust political commitment at all levels of the health. The National Committee, currently led by the MSAS Secretary General with the Director General of Public Health as its Vice President, is a unique opportunity for the visibility of NTDs to be raised at a high-level forum of the MSAS. This is a strong signal of country ownership through multisectoral commitment, setting the stage for NTD prioritization at all levels of operations within the MSAS and beyond. The breadth of memberships active within this National Committee also represents a broad spectrum of sectors relevant to NTDs programming at the national and operational level, both from private and public actors – from finance to community development, from infrastructure to environment.
The National Committee comprises six commissions providing holistic oversight of NTD interventions across sustainability domains and thematic areas, including but not limited to operational research, clinical training, information education and communication (IEC), monitoring and evaluation, WASH, and advocacy. The plurality of this expertise is aimed at equipping the National Committee and the NTDP to implement tailored and responsive NTD programming for efficient and effective management of multisectoral and sustainable NTD interventions.
The launch of the National Committee amplifies the close collaboration and commitment of Government of Senegal and partners involved in the fight against NTDs, propelling Senegal forward towards the achievement of its national objectives including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), contributing to economic and sustainable development across all communities affected, realizing the vision of a Senegal free from NTDs. As stated by Dr. Babacar Gueye (DLM), “To end the neglect of NTDs is a moral imperative and a socio-economic development issue to achieve a Senegal free of NTDs for sustainable development.”
 Source: Ministry of Health and Social Action. Republic of Senegal: One Nation – One Goal – One Faith. Sustainability Plan of the Neglected Tropical Diseases Program in Senegal, 2021-2023, p.8.