The World Health Organization (WHO) has given the green light to a request by Togo to remove human African trypanosomiasis, better known as the ‘sleeping sickness’, from the list of public health problems, an unprecedented milestone throughout Africa.
The disease, life-threatening if left untreated, is transmitted by the bite of an infected tsetse fly. WHO estimates that more than 60 million people in rural areas of 36 countries in East, West and Central Africa are exposed to trypanosomiasis.
In 1995, the region registered some 25,000 cases, to which should be added some 300,000 more that, according to experts, were not detected. The number of infections in 2019 was barely a thousand and Togo has not detected any illnesses for more than a decade.
The Togolese authorities began to implement containment measures in the 2000s and have since strengthened surveillance in areas considered high risk. In 2018, the country requested the WHO for the first time to review the list of public health problems to eliminate ‘sleeping sickness’ from it.
Now, “thanks to the efforts of all medical actors, the disease has been eliminated in Togo”, celebrated the Minister of Health, Mustafa Mijiwaya, who nevertheless called not to lower our guard because the risk still persists in neighboring countries , according to a WHO statement.
The director of the organization for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, congratulated the authorities and the Togolese population who have “shown the way” to other areas. “I am sure that the efforts of this country will inspire others to move towards the definitive eradication of ‘sleeping sickness,” he stressed.