Building a global schistosomiasis alliance: an opportunity to join forces to fight inequality and rural poverty
Schistosomiasis, one of the 17 neglected tropical diseases listed by the World Health Organization, presents a substantial public health and economic burden. Of the 261 million people requiring preventive chemotherapy for schistosomiasis in 2013, 92% of them lived in sub-Saharan Africa and only 12.7% received preventive chemotherapy. Moreover, in 2010, the WHO reported that schistosomiasis mortality could be as high as 280 000 per year in Africa alone. In May 2012 delegates to the sixty-fifth World Health Assembly adopted resolution WHA65.21 that called for the elimination of schistosomiasis, and foresees the regular treatment of at least 75% of school age children in at-risk areas. The resolution urged member states to intensify schistosomiasis control programmes and to initiate elimination campaigns where possible. Despite this, in June 2015, schistosomiasis was indicated to have the lowest level of preventive chemotherapy implementation in the spectrum of neglected tropical diseases. It was also highlighted as the disease most lacking in progress. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that it was also the only NTD with access to drug donations but without a coalition of stakeholders that collaborates to boost commitment and implementation. As a consequence, and to ensure that the WHO NTDs Roadmap Targets of 2012 and World Health Assembly Resolution WHA65.21 are met, the Global Schistosomiasis Alliance (GSA) has been set up. Diverse and representative, the GSA aims to be a partnership of endemic countries, academic and research institutions, international development agencies and foundations, international organizations, non-governmental development organizations, private sector companies and advocacy and resource mobilisation partners. Ultimately, the GSA calls for a partnership to work for the benefit of endemic countries by addressing health inequity and rural poverty.