An initiative to raise awareness and combat Skin Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) has been launched in the Upper East Region of Ghana. The two-year project, funded by the Anesvad Foundation, is being implemented in seven regions, including the Upper East, Northern, North-East, Savannah, Upper West, and Bono Regions. BasicNeeds-Ghana, in collaboration with its partners, the Center for People's Rights Initiatives (CPRI) in the Upper West Region and MIHOSO International Foundation in the Bono Region, is spearheading this effort in partnership with the Ghana Health Service.
The project, titled “Building a Civil Society Coalition to Advocate an Integrated Approach to Control Skin NTDs and Enhance the Quality of Life of Vulnerable and Affected People in Ghana,” is primarily being rolled out in the Bolgatanga Municipality and Talensi District in the Upper East Region.
Mr. Bernard Azuure, the Project Officer for BasicNeeds-Ghana in the Upper East Region, emphasized the impact of skin-Neglected Tropical Diseases on vulnerable groups, stating, “vulnerable groups such as women, men, and youth were mostly affected by skin-Neglected Topical Diseases.” He noted that these individuals often faced stigma, marginalization, and neglect, which hindered their participation in decision-making processes related to their healthcare and rights.
As a result of these challenges, Azuure highlighted the long-term consequences, saying, “the victims were not well integrated into their families and communities, which ultimately resulted in some of them developing mental health conditions.”
To address these issues, the project aims to raise awareness and dispel misconceptions surrounding skin NTDs. It also seeks to empower 300 health workers and community volunteers with the knowledge and skills to suspect and diagnose skin-NTDs and complications. Additionally, the project aims to provide timely access to diagnosis and management of skin-NTDs for approximately 2,300 affected individuals while enhancing their mental health and psychosocial well-being.
Furthermore, the initiative aims to improve family support and inclusion of individuals with skin-NTDs in family and community activities, increase the incomes and productivity of affected persons, and ensure that skin NTD treatment and management services align with the needs and rights of women and girls affected by these diseases.
Mr. Azuure outlined the next steps, saying, “Our immediate next step will be to establish Self-Help Groups (SHGs) of persons with skin NTDS within the Bolgatanga Municipality and Talensi District. These groups will be strengthened and empowered to spearhead their own affairs and self-advocate against all forms of abuses, discrimination, and stigmatization against their members.”
Ms. Francisca Adongo, the Bolgatanga Municipal Health Promotion Officer of the Ghana Health Service, pointed out that elephantiasis and leprosy were the common skin-NTDs in the area, with over 200 people currently affected in the Bolgatanga Municipality. Mr. Emmanuel Konlan, the Bolgatanga Municipal Disease Control Officer of the Ghana Health Service, emphasized the need for a collaborative approach to raise awareness among community members and combat the stigma faced by the most vulnerable in society.
Naba Akurugu Akadaana, the Chief of Sumbrungu-Kulbia, expressed gratitude for the project and highlighted that women were the most affected by the disease, expressing hope that the initiative would help raise awareness about the issues in the community.