African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC)

Transformation of the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) in 2016 into a new entity for neglected tropical diseases control in Africa.

WHO/APOC - FAC 19

Since the beginning of year 2014, the African Programme for Onchocerciasis control (APOC) has been in a process of a two-year transition period before its transformation into a new entity that will support African countries for onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis elimination. The new entity that will be launched in 2016 will also contribute to reinforcing the efforts made in the control of other preventive chemotherapy neglected tropical diseases (PC-NTDs). That is the main conclusion of the APOC Joint Action Forum held from 11th-13th December 2013 in Brazzaville, Congo.

The topic of this APOC supreme body meeting was «The role of the African Programme for Onchocerciasis control in the context of accelerated elimination of preventive chemotherapy neglected tropical diseases in the African Region ».

The 19th session of JAF gathered together, in the conference hall of the WHO Regional Office for Africa (WHO/AFRO) at the bank of the Congo River, about 150 onchocerciasis control decision-makers and stakeholders. Dr Sabine Ntakarutimana, Minister of Health and AIDS of Burundi, out-going chair of JAF18, handed over the chairmanship to Mr. François Ibovi, Minister of Health and Population of Congo who chaired the session, assisted by Ambassador Michael Marine, CEO of the Sabine Vaccine Institute, as vice-chair.

The decision to create a new programme has been the result of a long process during which the Programme had benefitted from the support of the other statutory body, namely, the Committee of Sponsoring Agencies (CSA), expanded to country representatives, donors, and partner institutions. PENDA was proposed as the name of the new entity, but before its adoption, the agreement of all parties is necessary.

JAF made some recommendations on steps to take, prior to the launching of the new entity. It also recommended the acceleration of the evaluations and the mapping of lymphatic filariasis and Onchocerciasis, the resources planning and mobilization required to fill the financial gap that needs to be solved in 2014 and 2015, the restructuring of the operating rules that will be applied to the new entity, and many other arrangements.

In addition, some highlights of the past year required the attention of the participants. Among them are: the drafting of a concept note and a strategic plan of action and budget 2016-2025 and the setting up of a task force that should support APOC in the transition period towards its transformation into a new entity. These documents were approved by JAF19 as were the WHO progress report for the period from 1st September 2012 to 31st August 2013, the activities of the Technical Consultative Committee (TCC) that include the results of the evaluation of onchocerciasis infection elimination in Africa, community directed treatment with ivermectin, the co-implementation of NTD control, and training carried out in 2012.The Forum also recognized progress made in developing research tools likely to boost the elimination of lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis in the African Region.

The Forum also welcomed the significant progress achieved in about 40 years with quite diversified partnerships that enabled APOC to ensure the treatment of more than 100 million people in more than 181.000 communities, distributed in 24 countries..

Mostly at the financial level, the World Bank welcomed the presence of the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), as an NTD control partner. Pledges to support APOC were made by the representatives of donors such as the African Development Bank (AfDB), BADEA, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), Merck and Co. Company, Non-Governmental Development Organizations Coordination Group, Canada, Nigeria, the Saudi Development Fund, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the World Bank.

In addition, the Forum expressed its gratitude to WHO/AFRO for hosting the session and to the Government of the Republic of Congo for their hospitality.

As usual, it was agreed that the 20th session of JAF should be held in the second week of December 2014. The venue will be communicated after consultation between the Management of APOC, the Chair of JAF19, and the Chair of CSA.

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