AFRICA – Brazilian pharmaceutical company EMS has donated 6 million tablets of the oral antibiotic azithromycin to Cameroon, Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo in an effort to eradicate yaws.

The project combines yaws eradication activities with integrated surveillance of leprosy, Buruli ulcer and response to other neglected tropical diseases in the targeted African countries.

The initiative in the three Congo Basin countries is financed by the German Development Bank through the Central African Endemic Control Coordination Organization and the Swiss-based non-governmental organization FAIRMED is overseeing the implementation of the project.

Yaws is a neglected tropical disease endemic in 15 countries in Africa, Asia and western Pacific region including Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Liberia and Togo.

Yaws is a debilitating childhood infectious bacterial disease spread from person-to-person affecting skin, bone and cartilage that can lead to chronic disfigurement and disability without treatment.

Poverty, low socioeconomic conditions and poor personal hygiene facilitate the spread of yaws thus health education and improvement in personal hygiene are essential components in reducing transmission.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a single oral dose of 2mg Azithromycin as the preferred yaws treatment after careful clinical assessment since there is no vaccine for yaws.

The EMS Group has already delivered part of the oral azithromycin shipment to Central African Republic and Congo for yaws treatment while Cameroon is set to receive her supplies in the coming weeks.

The large-scale distribution targets around 1.4 million people who are at risk of yaws in the three Congo Basin countries for the initial round of mass drug administration.

In addition, the pharmaceutical company intends to carry out additional rounds to reach all the 7.4 million people at risk in the three countries with doses of azithromycin for the complete yaws cure.

The donation comes at a time when there is need for collaborative efforts aimed at ending yaws in the Congo Basin region to enable future generations of to live free of the suffering caused by the easily treatable illness.

WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti said that although yaws can be life-threatening especially among children, it is curable through inexpensive and effective antibiotics that have the potential to accelerate its eradication.

She further said that WHO has partnered with the EMS Group to donate 153 million tablets to the global campaign to eradicate yaws to reinforces their previous agreement for the period 2017—2022.

WHO has provided key technical guidance documents, standardized data collection tools and facilitated the supply of azithromycin to the affected countries.

The health organization is also actively engaged in advocacy, partnership and resource mobilization to support countries in the ongoing efforts to eradicate neglected tropical diseases.

The collaboration between WHO and EMS will further support the global momentum to achieve universal health coverage and the 2030 roadmap to eliminate neglected tropical diseases.

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