A five-day global conference on tackling tsetse flies and sleeping sickness has adopted key recommendations aimed at shaping efforts to eradicate the challenge going forward.
Trypanosomiasis, which is commonly known as sleeping sickness, claims 50,000 lives annually, within Africa and covers over 10 million square kilometers in 38 countries, with 1000 human cases reported in 2022.
The disease puts around 50 million cattle at risk, with 35 million trypanocide doses used and 3 million cattle deaths reported annually.
Animal Health Expert Prof James Wabacha from the African Union- InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) said more than 300 participants who attended the conference have gained more knowledge on handling the disease.
“It is an important meeting. We started off discussing the country reports that are very important because they are a reflection of the activities happening in our AU member states in regard to control and elimination of tsetse and trypanosomiasis,” he said.
The participants, he said “indicated to us where they are, the challenges they are facing, the opportunities that are available and of course through the discussions, they have gained knowledge on how to do their job better.”
The 36th General Conference of the International Scientific Council for Trypanosomiasis Research and Control (ISCTRC) provided an opportunity to discuss the tools that will help the continent realize a 2030 goal to eliminate sleeping sickness.
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Wabacha is also the ISCTRC Secretary said for the elimination war to be won, countries need very specific and very sensitive tools.
Notably, he said AU member states have since developed tsetse atlases, to guide them into where to focus their efforts. The atlases will play a key role in guiding member states in formulation of policies.
“Going forward, member states and other stakeholders will engage communities more in efforts to eradicate tsetse flies and sleeping sickness,” he said.
The Prof argued that the same communities that keep animals are the same that are affected by the problem thus having a direct engagement with them will boost elimination efforts.
“For us to be successful, we must be consistent. We should prevent reinfestation into the areas that are free by putting barriers. It is not a battle that you fight and stop but keep on fighting,” said the Prof.
he added, "It has to be consistent, the capacities must be developed, the funding must be consistent to ensure the job that we have done to clear a certain area is not infested again."
This vital meeting, held biennially, plays a pivotal role in improving tsetse and trypanosomiasis control, particularly in rural communities where the impact is most severe.
Organised under the auspices of the ISCTRC in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development of Kenya, the event underscores the collective commitment to eliminate trypanosomiasis and its devastating impact on Africa’s people and livestock.