Chad Eliminates Sleeping Sickness As Public Health Problem

By Alice Etuka, Abuja

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has congratulated Chad for eliminating the gambiense form of Human African trypanosomiasis, also known as sleeping sickness, as a public health problem. It marks the first neglected tropical disease to be eliminated in the country.

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WHO announced the development in a statement issued on Thursday, June 20, 2024.

The global health body also announced that Chad was the first country to be acknowledged for eliminating a Neglected Tropical Disease in 2024, becoming the 51st country to have achieved such target globally, and marking the first step beyond the midpoint to the global threshold of 100 countries set for 2030.

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The 100-country target is one of the four global overarching targets set by the Road map for neglected tropical diseases 2021–2030.

Reacting to the news, WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus said, “I congratulate the government and the people of Chad for this achievement. It is great to see Chad join the growing group of countries that have eliminated at least one NTD. The 100-country target is nearer and within reach”.

Similarly, the Chadian Minister of Health,
Dr. Abdel Mahamat said, “the elimination of the gambiense form of human African trypanosomiasis in Chad reflects our commitment to improving the health of our people.

“This achievement results from years of dedicated efforts by our health workers, communities, and partners. We will continue this momentum to tackle other neglected tropical diseases and ensure a healthier future for all Chadians”.

Sleeping sickness can cause flu-like symptoms initially but eventually causing behaviour change, confusion, sleep cycle disturbances or even coma, often leading to death. Improved access to early diagnosis and treatment, as well as surveillance and response has proven that countries can control and eventually eliminate transmission.

So far, seven countries have been validated by WHO for eliminating the gambiense form of human African trypanosomiasis: Togo (2020), Benin (2021), Côte d’Ivoire (2021), Uganda (2022), Equatorial Guinea (2022), Ghana (2023), and Chad (2024). The rhodesiense form of the disease has been eliminated as a public health problem in one country, Rwanda, as validated by WHO in 2022.

As of June 2024, across the WHO African region, 20 countries have eliminated at least one neglected tropical disease, with Togo having eliminated 4 diseases and Benin and Ghana having eliminated 3 diseases each.

In Nigeria however, a recent study showed that African trypanosomiasis was still endemic in both humans and animals in the country.

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