1 billion treated for Tropical diseases in 2015 – WHO

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The World Health Organization (WHO) says about one billion people received treatments for at least one Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) in 2015.

Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD)
Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD)

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of tropical infections which are especially common in low-income populations in developing regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. They are caused by a variety of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria among others.

WHO said in its fourth report on NTDs that there has been progress against debilitating diseases and a commitment by the United Kingdom to double its funding for NTDs.

It said significant gains have been recorded so far in relieving symptoms and consequences of diseases for which effective tools are scarce.

According to the report, important reductions have been achieved in the number of new cases of sleeping sickness, visceral leishmaniasis in South-East Asia and also of Buruli ulcer.“

According to the report, “WHO has released data showing medicines to prevent NTDs reach nearly a billion people every year.Leaders from governments, pharmaceutical companies and charitable organizations convened at a five-day summit in Geneva to pledge new commitments to the collective efforts to control and eliminate NTDs.The meeting comes five years after the launch of the London declaration on NTDs, a commitment by the public and private sectors to achieve the WHO goals for control, elimination and eradication of 10 NTDs.In that time, billions of treatments have been donated by pharmaceutical companies and delivered to impoverished communities in nearly 150 countries, reaching nearly a billion people in 2015”.

It described NTDs as some of the oldest and most painful diseases afflicting the world’s poorest communities, stating that one in six people suffered from NTDs worldwide including more than half a billion children.

According to the report, NTDs debilitate and perpetuate cycles of poverty, keeping children out of school, parents out of work and dampening hope of any chance of an economic future.

However, it said that more people are being reached with needed NTDs intervention than ever before delivered through five public health approaches.“This include innovative and intensified disease management, preventive chemotherapy, vector ecology and management, veterinary public health services, provision of safe water, sanitation and hygiene,’’ it said.

The fourth WHO report on neglected tropical diseases aims at evaluating the changing global public health landscape and assessing progress towards the 2020 targets.

The report also considers the possible core elements of a strategic vision to integrating neglected tropical diseases into the 2030 Agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The WHO report, Integrating neglected tropical diseases in global health and development, demonstrates how strong political support, generous donations of medicines, and improvements in living conditions have led to sustained expansion of disease control programmes in countries where these diseases are most prevalent.

Since 2007, when a group of global partners met to agree to tackle NTDs together, a variety of local and international partners have worked alongside ministries of health in endemic countries to deliver quality-assured medicines, and provide people with care and long-term management.

In 2012, partners endorsed a WHO NTD roadmap, committing additional support and resources to eliminating 10 of the most common NTDs.

Key achievements include:

  • 1 billion people treated for at least one neglected tropical disease in 2015 alone.
  • 556 million people received preventive treatment for lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis).
  • More than 114 million people received treatment for onchocerciasis (river blindness: 62% of those requiring it.
  • Only 25 human cases of Guinea-worm disease were reported in 2016, putting eradication within reach.
  • Cases of human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) have been reduced from 37 000 new cases in 1999 to well under 3000 cases in 2015.
  • Trachoma – the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness – has been eliminated as a public health problem in Mexico, Morocco, and Oman. More than 185 000 trachoma patients had surgery for trichiasis worldwide and more than 56 million people received antibiotics in 2015 alone.
  • Visceral leishmaniasis: in 2015 the target for elimination was achieved in 82% of sub-districts in India, 97% of sub-districts in Bangladesh, and in 100% of districts in Nepal.
  • Only 12 reported human deaths were attributable to rabies in the WHO Region of the Americas in 2015, bringing the region close to its target of eliminating rabies in humans by 2015.

However, the report highlights the need to further scale up action in other areas.

“Further gains in the fight against neglected tropical diseases will depend on wider progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Dr Dirk Engels, Director of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases. Meeting global targets for water and sanitation will be key. WHO estimates that 2.4 billion people still lack basic sanitation facilities such as toilets and latrines, while more than 660 million continue to drink water from “unimproved” sources, such as surface water.

Meanwhile, global concern about the recent outbreaks of Zika virus disease, and its associated complications, has re-energized efforts to improve vector control. In May this year, the World Health Assembly will review proposals for a new Global vector control response. There are also brighter prospects to prioritize cross-sectoral collaboration to promote veterinary public health.

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