FAO Regional Office for Africa

WHO and FAO step up towards the elimination of human African trypanosomiasis to ensure health and Food Security in Africa

June 14 2018, Addis Ababa - With the intent of aiding efforts towards the elimination of the human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), also known as sleeping sickness, FAO and WHO jointly held a training course for Eastern and Southern African countries. The training was aimed at country level health experts, and focused on the utilization of the Atlas of HAT as a key tool for disease tracking via detailed mapping for its control and elimination.

Tsetse-transmitted trypanosomiasis affects 37 countries in Africa where it causes heavy losses to the rural economy costing billions of U.S Dollars every year. Eliminating the impacts of this disease would significantly contribute to food security and nutrition in the continent.  FAO Subregional Coordinator for Eastern Africa, Chimimba David Phiri, stressed the importance of these efforts in his opening remarks: “Controlling trypanosomiasis would significantly contribute to the fulfilment of FAO’s and WHO’s respective mandates and the attainment of several goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”  

Phiri added that the role of the Programme against African Trypanosomosis (PAAT), an FAO statutory body, is to provide a platform for international alliances and inter-agency collaboration to eliminate the constraints of the disease to suitable agriculture, rural development and human health.

The goal of the training was to empower national personnel in charge of HAT control and data management to optimize surveillance and plan effective control and elimination activities. Through such workshops, WHO and FAO are working with countries affected by HAT by supporting them to take full ownership of the atlas.  The training was held from 11 to 14 June 2018 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for participants drawn from Malawi, South Sudan,Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Following the training, and thanks to the HAT Atlas, affected countries will be able to represent different epidemiological indicators on maps, to interpret spatio-temporal trends, and enhance the effectiveness of disease surveillance and control operations.

Background

African trypanosomiasis: African trypanosomiasis, also known as sleeping sickness in humans, is an insect-borne parasitic disease that causes severe economic losses in the agricultural sector, and which still holds the potential for devastating epidemics. Substantial efforts in the past twenty years have helped reduce the prevalence of the sleeping sickness, and WHO hass now targeted the disease for elimination as a public health problem, as stated in the WHO’s Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) roadmap for 2020. The Atlas of HAT has been developed jointly by WHO and  FAO within the Programme against African trypanosomiasis (PAAT). The Atlas compiles HAT data transmitted by the sleeping sickness national control programmes (SSNCP) of the endemic countries, and by NGOs and research institutes. The Atlas is a key tool to plan well-targeted activities, and to monitor progress towards the elimination of HAT.Training workshops on the use of the HAT Atlas were set up for the countries affected by HAT to promote ownership and optimal utilization of this tool at the country level.