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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Rare diseases in Tanzania: a National Call for Action to address policy and urgent needs of individuals with rare diseases

Kaywanga, Frida; Alimohamed, Mohamed Zahir; David, Aneth Bella; Maeda, Daniel; Mbarak, Sharifa; Mavura, Togolani; Nkya, Siana; Ishengoma, Deus S.


A rare disease is generally defined as a condition which affects about 1 among 2000 people and currently, there are approximately 5000-8000 rare diseases (RDs) affecting over 400 million people world-wide. Although RDs may arise from different causes such as infections and environmental factors, about 80% are caused by genetic abnormalities. In Tanzania, there are no reports of the types of RDs, their incidence, distribution and numbers of individuals affected. In addition, there have been no strategies to map RDs in the country and develop a definition that fits the local context. Public awareness and understanding of RDs are very limited, and these lead to poor management and stigmatisation of patients. To address the ongoing problems, Tanzania joined other countries world-wide and global partners to commemorate the rare diseases day (RDD) for the first time in 2016 and subsequently every year. Unlike previous years where the RDD was organised by Ali Kimara Rare Diseases Foundation (AKRDF) with few partners, in 2020, a bigger event was co-hosted by Ali AKRDF and Tanzania Human Genetics Organization together with government representatives and other multiple partners. The organisers, government representatives and participants proposed a national "Call for Action" with the overall goal of improving the lives of patients/individuals with RDs. The call focuses and aims to address 17 strategic issues that are broadly categorised into four areas. These include generating demographic data of individuals with RDs; advocating for policies and guidelines for diagnosis, care, treatment and health financing; developing policies supporting public education, awareness and advocacy; and strengthening research, innovation and public-private partnerships. If adopted and implemented, the potential impacts of these recommendations will include improved access to adequate and high-quality health and education services, and policies and guidelines to address the current and future challenges facing individuals with RDs and their families.


Rare diseases; Rare disease day; Ali Kimara Rare Diseases Foundation (AKRDF); Tanzania Human Genetics Organization (THGO); Tanzania

Published in

Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases
2022, volume: 17, number: 1, article number: 343
Publisher: BMC

Authors' information

Kaywanga, Frida
Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences
Alimohamed, Mohamed Zahir
University of Groningen
Bella David, Aneth
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Plant Protection Biology
Bella David, Aneth
University of Dar es Salaam
Bella David, Aneth
Tanzania Society of Human Genetics (TSHG)
Maeda, Daniel
University of Dar es Salaam
Mbarak, Sharifa
Ali Kimara Rare Disease Foundation (AKRDF)
Mavura, Togolani
Ali Kimara Rare Disease Foundation (AKRDF)
Nkya, Siana
Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences
Ishengoma, Deus Simon
Harvard University

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG3 Good health and well-being
SDG17 Partnerships for the goals

UKÄ Subject classification

Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology

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