In commemoration of World Toilet Day, it is crucial that local, national, and global leaders commit to improving sanitation for African communities. Access to adequate sanitation improves health outcomes by reducing communicable diseases such as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), thereby creating stronger and more resilient communities.
Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of parasitic and bacterial infectious diseases affecting more than 1.7 billion of the world’s population, with about 40% of this burden concentrated in Africa. Two of the most common NTDs are intestinal worms and bilharzia, both of which are parasitic worm infections. People who are exposed to feces-contaminated soil are more susceptible to NTD infections.
According to areportby the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) that was supported by the END Fund, eliminating NTDs requires concerted action that is tailored to local contexts. This includes better disease mapping data, integration with wider public health efforts, and programs to improve sanitation. Additionally, investments should be targeted at strengthening health systems across the board to make them more responsive and resilient to these diseases.
The benefits of improved sanitation extend beyond households to entire communities and cannot be overemphasized. With a lower number of illnesses, more adults can contribute to the economy while the younger population can stay healthy and in school. Thus, it is imperative that steps are taken to end the neglect of communities in need of proper sanitation.
The END Fund is committed to ending NTDs during our lifetime. Through its efforts, the organization has reached many vulnerable and marginalized communities across Africa. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the END Fund established a COVID-19 response fund and invested in WASH programs and services to reduce communities’ exposure to communicable diseases such as COVID-19 and NTDs. In Ethiopia for instance, the END Fund worked with its partners to construct hand washing stations.
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