top of page
  • Bertrand Byishimo—Rwanda

Just a reminder: Seven years left to beat NTDs

They are among the easiest to prevent and treat, yet this group of 20 ‘Neglected’ Tropical Diseases claim thousands of lives, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Timely and sensible investments can help achieve the UN goal of eradicating these ‘diseases of poverty’ by 2030

Rural and hard-to-reach communities face a higher burden of 'neglected tropical diseases'.

Photo: Serrah Galos


Historically underfunded and overlooked in the global health agenda, the ‘Neglected Tropical Diseases’ (NTDs) are a group of 20 “diseases of poverty” commonly found in areas without access to clean water and sanitation, rural and hard-to-reach communities, and regions without quality healthcare services.


NTDs continue to pose a major threat to the global health agenda as they receive inadequate attention; however, with the joint efforts of non-governmental and other organisations, there is hope that the world can achieve the target of eliminating these diseases by 2030 as part of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).


Those targets include ensuring 90% fewer people require interventions against NTDs, 75% fewer NTD-related disability adjusted life years (DALYs) and, eradication of two NTDs (Drancunculiasis and yaws).

To achieve the 2030 goal on NTDs, there is need for focused as well as actionable targets that foster sustainable interventions.


How far have we come?


In line with the corrective efforts, 47 countries have eliminated at least one NTD, especially in the past 10 years.


The World Health Organization (WHO) has validated 10 countries where lymphatic filariasis is no longer a public health problem.


Four countries in the Americas have been verified as “onchocerciasis-free”, while trachoma is no longer a public health problem in many countries after it was eliminated by five countries.


Investing in NTDs is crucial because billions of people worldwide—especially the most marginalised groups in terms of health and finances—are affected by these tropical diseases.

Human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) is on track for elimination as a public health problem.

These are some of the significant accomplishments resulting from the 2012 London Declaration undertaken by pharma companies, donors, endemic countries and NGOs to eradicate 10 NTDs by 2020.

During the celebration of these milestones, renowned billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates commented:


“Thanks to this partnership, these neglected diseases are now getting the attention they deserve so fewer people have to suffer from these treatable conditions. There have been many successes in the past five years, but the job is not done yet.”


As he said, and I repeat: The job is not done yet. The question remains whether these NTD targets can be achieved in their entirety within the next seven years to meet the 2030 SDG goal.


Where do we need to invest?


On January 30 this year, the world observed the International NTDs Day under the theme ‘Act Now. Act Together. Invest in Neglected Tropical Diseases’. But where exactly are we going to invest?


Investing in NTDs is crucial because billions of people worldwide—especially the most marginalised groups in terms of health and finances—are affected by these tropical diseases, and it is both economical and equitable to fund initiatives to combat NTDs.


There is a significant funding gap when it comes to youth-led initiatives in combating NTDs—that is, efforts to meaningfully involve young people in the task of eradicating NTDs.

According to WHO statistics, at least 16 countries suffer from nearly 80 per cent of the burden of global NTDs. Below are five areas that experts recommend for investment to eradicate NTDs worldwide and save more than one billion lives a year.


Investing in young people


There is a significant funding gap when it comes to youth-led initiatives in combating NTDs—that is, efforts to meaningfully involve young people in the task of eradicating NTDs.


This is the generation that could potentially see historic achievements in the fight against NTDs or, on the other hand, witness future generations limited by the same preventable and treatable diseases that affected their parents and grandparents.


There is a need to break this cycle, which calls for belief in the young and the willingness to invest in them, given that their creativity and influence online and offline are unmatched and they can help the world in eradicating NTDs.


Sanitation


Investments typically overlook sanitation even though it plays a big role in fighting NTDs along with preventing exposure to diseases such as soil-transmitted helminthic infections (STH), schistosomiasis, and trachoma; safe water and hygienic conditions in health facilities and homes are essential for the management and care of many NTDs.


Helping people, especially those in need, have full access to facilities for the safe disposal of human waste, as also ensuring hygienic conditions through services such as garbage collection, industrial waste management, and wastewater treatment and disposal would greatly help end NTDs.


Clean water and hygiene


In most low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) the cost of cleaning is still high and that results in lack of hygiene and, in turn, transmission of NTDs.

Awareness campaigns are held regularly but people say they cannot avoid contaminated water as they have no other source of water.

Globally, two billion people lack safe drinking water at home. Between 2015 and 2020, 107 million people gained access to safely managed drinking water at home, and 115 million people gained access to safe toilets at home.


Adequate investment in this area will help improve conditions in households and healthcare institutions.


Awareness campaigns are held regularly but people say they cannot avoid contaminated water as they have no other source of water.


Media and communication


Information sharing is key in fighting NTDs, as they mainly result from low hygiene and lack of awareness. Hence efforts invested in media, community outreaches and campaigns would help keep the population more engaged in efforts to eradicate NTDs.

From civil society advocates and community leaders, to global health experts and policymakers working across diverse issues, there is a growing chorus of voices in support of a common goal: Beat NTDs.

 

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Re:solve Global Health.


Bertrand Byishimo is running a project to eliminate Bilharzia in the Eastern province of Rwanda. He is a 2022 Global Health Corps Fellow and a health communications professional.


Comments


bottom of page