The editorial entitled: COVID-19 and Neglected Tropical Diseases in Africa: impacts, interactions and consequences, has been published in the journal International Health and looks at the impact that the pandemic could have on programmes for the control and elimination of NTDs in Africa, especially as much mass drug administration, surgery and support operations have been suspended or scaled back in an attempt to limit COVID transmission.
The paper looks at all the aspects that may be impacted by the pandemic, including the economic consequences of the predicted global downturn, and the toll it may take on already fragile health systems, the drain on medical and health expertise during the COVID response and the potential expiry of donated drugs. Africa also has a high prevalence of underlying health conditions that could be significant as COVID comorbidities, including HIV, TB and some NTDs themselves, all of which could mean the consequences of the pandemic are wide and long lasting.
Many NTDs require good hand, face and limb hygiene, and an expansion of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme messaging provides an opportunity for the WASH, behaviour change and communication approaches to mitigate COVID but the availability of clean water and soap would be an issue. The authors agree that NTD partners, embedded as they are in extensive and effective community delivery networks, have the opportunity to adapt and provide support for COVID response to populations “at the end of the road”. While COVID continues to preoccupy the global community, it should not impair other essential health service provision, including those related to NTDs.