SOUTH SUDAN— South Sudan has worked in recent years to combat the threat of neglected tropical diseases, with assistance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners.
This has been done by delivering medications and increasing preventive measures to speed progress toward ending these diseases.
WHO has assisted the Ministry of Health in developing and implementing a Neglected Tropical Disease Master Plan 2023-2027.
The country’s Master Plan is in line with the 2030 Global Roadmap for Neglected Tropical Disease Elimination.
The strategy intends, among other things, to eliminate targeted diseases such as bilharzia, river blindness, elephantiasis, intestinal worms, and trachoma by 2030.
South Sudan’s master plan focuses on ensuring three fundamental shifts in the approach to addressing neglected tropical diseases.
These include increasing accountability for impact by using impact indicators, moving away from singular, disease-specific programs, and changing operating models and culture to facilitate greater ownership of the country.
It has also assisted the Ministry of Health in training health professionals throughout the country in many elements of neglected tropical disease management, such as treatment, diagnosis, mapping, mass drug administration, active case search, and contact tracing.
In South Sudan, 19 of the 20 neglected tropical illnesses are endemic, providing a significant health risk to more than 12 million people. These diseases can cause extreme pain, impairments, and deformities, among other catastrophic effects.
Neglected tropical diseases are a category of 20 diseases or disease groups that primarily occur in tropical and subtropical regions.
They include lymphatic filariasis, more often known as elephantiasis, onchocerciasis or river blindness, schistosomiasis or bilharzia, as well as human African trypanosomiasis, sometimes called sleeping sickness, chronic ulcers, and other skin illnesses.
Since 2021, almost 17 million individuals in South Sudan have been treated for river blindness, elephantiasis, bilharzia, trachoma, and soil-transmitted worms.
This is in reference to a treatment push in June 2023, when health workers conducted a house-to-house mass drug administration against bilharzia, ensuring that all eligible children received treatment regardless of whether they were ill or not.
Hon. Ader Macar Aciek, Undersecretary in the Ministry of Health, emphasized the need to collaborate with partners to reach communities around the country and guarantee that vulnerable populations receive treatment and protection from these diseases.
He went on to say that the road to eradicating neglected tropical illnesses is long, but they are determined to finish it by safeguarding everyone at risk so that they can live healthier lives.
Dr. Fabian Ndenzako, acting WHO Representative in South Sudan, expressed his commitment to assisting the Ministry of Health in addressing the country’s neglected tropical disease threat.
He emphasized that they will work together to guarantee that the national plan is completely executed, so putting an end to the threat of this disease and its associated misery.
Elephantiasis and river blindness are prevalent in 34 counties of South Sudan, whereas bilharzia and intestinal worms are endemic in 46.
Elephantiasis and intestinal worms are endemic in 35 counties, while Loa Loa Filariasis is co-endemic in 36 counties.
The recent mapping of leprosy endemicity status indicates that all regions in the country are endemic to leprosy.