"Neglected tropical diseases is an umbrella term used to describe a group of 20
infectious diseases. These diseases affect over 1.7 billion people. They can
disable, debilitate and even kill. The world’s most vulnerable and poorest are
most affected. In the past, the diseases in this group have been overlooked
internationally and poorly funded domestically: hence the “neglected” in the
name. Some common neglected tropical diseases are Buruli Ulcer, Dengue Fever
and Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy).
There are already tools to prevent and treat these diseases. They include
drugs, vector control, veterinary public health interventions and provision of
safe water and toilets.
In the past 10 years there have been significant global efforts to control
neglected tropical diseases. In 2012, pharmaceutical companies, donors, endemic
countries and non government organisations came together to sign the London
Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases. Together, they committed to
control, eliminate or eradicate ten of these diseases by 2020 and improve the
lives of over a billion people. Support from the signatories ranged from
donation of the essential medicines to financing the delivery and distribution
of the drugs, research, and funding for sanitation and safe water. These
concerted global efforts have yielded successes and are grounds for optimism.
To date, 600 million people no longer require treatment for neglected tropical
diseases. Cases of some of these diseases, such as leprosy, sleeping sickness
and Guinea worm disease, are at an all-time low. Forty-four countries have
eliminated at least one neglected tropical disease as a public health concern.
Most recently the Gambia and Saudi Arabia eliminated trachoma, a bacterial
infection which causes blindness.
However, this progress is now at real risk of reversal as a result of the
COVID-19 pandemic. Drug programmes have been interrupted, health budgets
re-prioritised and aid cut.
As I have previously highlighted, interrupting control programmes could lead to
rebound infections and disease. These could be worse than the original levels.
This is now an imminent reality for neglected tropical diseases if control
programmes do not resume quickly enough."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics