Health

WHO reports progress in tackling tropical diseases

According to the international health agency, an estimated 1 billion people received treatment in 2015 alone

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Thursday 20 April 2017

Today, NTDs flourish in places where sub-standard housing, lack of access to safe water and sanitation, chronic hunger, filthy environment, and insects contribute to their efficient transmission
Credit: US Army Africa/Flickr

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported remarkable achievement in tackling neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) since 2007. According to the international health agency, an estimated 1 billion people received treatment in 2015 alone.

“WHO has observed record-breaking progress towards bringing ancient scourges like sleeping sickness and elephantiasis to their knees,” WHO Director General Margaret Chan, says.

The latest WHO report on NTDs shows that strong political support, generous donations and improvement in living conditions have led to sustained expansion of disease control programmes in countries where NTDs are most prevalent.

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

NTDs and the poor

The poor have always suffered from deadly, painful and disfiguring diseases. However, since 2007, WHO has helped streamline delivery of donated drugs to help tackle NTDs.

During the London Declaration of 2012, leading pharmaceutical companies agreed to billions of dollars’ worth of drug donations through 2020. This is helping close to a billion people per year get access to free treatment. Several tropical diseases are on the path of being eliminated now.

NTDs are associated with poverty. Furthermore, tropical diseases flourish in impoverished environments.

Once widely prevalent, many of these diseases gradually disappeared as economies developed and living conditions and hygiene improved. Today, NTDs flourish in places where sub-standard housing, lack of access to safe water and sanitation, chronic hunger, filthy environment, and insects contribute to their efficient transmission.

In the recent past, the need to control NTDs was not felt, as the diseases rarely travelled beyond impoverished surroundings.

However, the situation has changed in the past 10 years, making the control of these diseases one of the best rags-to-riches success stories in modern times.

Key achievements

  • 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 3,000 cases in 2015
  • Trachoma, the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness, has been eliminated as a public health problem in Oman, Morocco and Mexico. 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 per cent of sub-districts in India, 97 per cent of sub-districts in Bangladesh and in 100 per cent of districts in Nepal.
  • Only 12 reported human deaths were attributable to rabies in the Region of the Americas in 2015, bringing the region close to its target of eliminating rabies in humans by 2015

The report highlights the need to further scale up action. “Further gains in the fight against neglected tropical diseases will depend on wider progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals,” Dirk Engels, director of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases, says.

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