The National Health and Family Planning Commission of China and the Department of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), World Health Organisation (WHO), in partnership with the University, have agreed to create and strengthen collaboration between African and Chinese research institutions in order to scale up Schistosomiasis control and its elimination by taking advantage of the success of China in the elimination of Schistosomiasis. By the agreement, the University is one of the reference centres in Nigeria for the implementation of the Chinese working agreement with institution for the study, control and elimination of Schistosomiasis in Nigeria.
Professor Sammy Sam-Wobo of FUNAAB, who is Nigeria’s representative, stated that the first meeting of the China-Africa Cooperation was held in Malawi in 2015, where a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding between Chinese research institutions and some African countries was signed, and in 2016, the second meeting was held, with a 3-day training course in Malacology and use of Molluscicides for snail control, as Nigeria and Ethiopia were included in the cooperation. According to report of the China-Africa meeting and training course on Malacology for Schistosomiasis elimination in Africa, the African Region bears about 40 per cent of the global burden of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and all the 47 countries of the region are endemic for at least, two of the NTDs while 36 of them are co-endemic for at least, five of these diseases. Africa, which is the region most affected by Schistosomiasis, has 91.4 per cent of the total number of people requiring treatment globally.
The report further informed that this increased the momentum to eliminate Preventive Chemotherapy Neglected Tropical Diseases (PC-NTDs), including Schistosomiasis, from Africa with high level commitment by the donors, medicine donors and donation programmes, NGDOs (Non-Governmental Development Organisation), partner institutions, and members states to work towards attainment of the 2020 NTD elimination targets, under the guidance and leadership of the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Africa (WHO/AFRO) through the Expanded Special to Eliminate Neglected Tropical Diseases (ESPEN).
The specific objectives of the collaboration include providing support to Schistosomiasis monitoring and evaluation activities in the African region, training participants on the new World Health Organisation manuals on evaluation of Molluscicides and their application in the field, creating a training network to strengthen research capacity of African countries, establishing and strengthening linkages between African and Chinese research institutions.
Recommendations to African countries for snail should be integrated in national country plans, there should be institutional mapping of snail habits and transmission sites, to stratify habitats for focal control, improvement in training on Malacology, Schistosomiasis control implementers should be trained at country and institutional levels, and countries are to secure regulatory approvals for the use of Molluscicides and investigate sources of Molluscicides with the cost of implementation.
WHO has called for snail control measures including organising capacity building in Malacology and snail control, making available the operational manual on snail control, placing guidance materials on WHO website for supporting snail control activities, finalising and making available guidelines on field and laboratory testing of Molluscicides, developing more sensitive techniques for detecting infection in snails, and being the link between the countries in the implementation and execution of the MoU signed.
Other programmatic recommendations to countries include integrating WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) activities in control programme, JAP (Joint Action Programme) strengthening countries to improve treatment, coverage, reporting or investigating other sources of Praziquantel (China), continuing strategies including pre-school children in MDA (Mass Drug Administration), and implementing MDA for adults in high risk areas according current guidelines. WHO also recommended that there should be the development of more sensitive diagnostic tools, pursuance of additional sources of praziquantel (PZQ), promotion of China-Afro collaboration, overseeing other praziquantel donations to guarantee safety and monitoring of Severe Adverse Effects (SAEs), supporting institutional level and Chinese cooperation recognition by MoH (Ministry of Health) while countries are to apply to WHO for guidance on additional praziquantel mobilisation.
On the part of China, it is charged with the responsibility of harmonising with ongoing activities to meet the targets of quick implementation of Chinese agreements, ensuring that administrative procedures by all parties are expedited in line with proposed milestones, informing respective embassies about collaboration for facilitation by promoting phase approach from pilot to scale-up for institutes to collaborate for operational research as a first level, and second level government to government involvement in implementation of research findings for control; as well as serve as WHO technical partner in the China-Africa collaboration.