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This Thursday, 30 January 2020 - the first World Day for the Fight against Neglected Tropical Diseases - the Democratic Republic of Congo is celebrating its 3rd National Day for the Fight against Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT), also known as sleeping sickness. "Belgium fully supports the eradication of sleeping sickness in DRC", says Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo. Together with Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès, he will visit DRC next week, where attention will also be paid to the eradication of the sleeping sickness.
DRC is epicentre
Sleeping sickness is a neglected tropical disease caused by the tsetse fly, which is present in about ten African countries, but whose epicentre is the DRC with 85% of reported cases, and which remains a public health problem in that country.
Belgium and its partners are determined to support the Democratic Republic of Congo in its fight to eliminate this disease. As Minister De Croo says: "It is by joining forces that we will succeed in eradicating HAT, which mainly affects the most disadvantaged populations."
Innovative collaboration between Belgium, ITM and the Gates Foundation
In 2017, Belgium, whose expertise is recognized worldwide in the fight against sleeping sickness, has decided to strengthen its support in order to achieve the elimination of this disease, which particularly affects the most disadvantaged populations.
In partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Congolese Ministry of Health, an innovative and multidimensional approach has been developed, based on 4 components coordinated by the ITM. This approach includes the development of a strategy to eliminate the disease, the development of new technologies for the detection/confirmation of new cases, the development of new innovative treatments, the control of tsetse fly outbreaks and rigorous scientific monitoring.
The Belgian investment in the fight against this neglected tropical disease amounts to almost 36.5 million euros over 9 years.
Belgium has always considered its support for the sleeping sickness control programme as an important priority of its bilateral cooperation with the Democratic Republic of Congo. That is why, for more than 20 years, Belgian development cooperation has made continuous efforts through various channels to continue investing in the fight against this disease. This support has been implemented via Enabel, the Belgian development cooperation agency, and via the ITM, the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, and has resulted in both financial and expert support to the National HAT Control Programme (PNLTHA) managed by the Congolese Ministry of Health.
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