WHO urges investment in neglected tropical diseases

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

The World Health Organization on Monday called for greater investment in the fight against neglected tropical diseases, which have left more than 1.6 billion people, often in the least developed countries, in need of treatment in 2021.

NTDs are a diverse group of conditions occurring mainly in tropical regions that include dengue, leprosy and rabies.

They are considered neglected diseases because they are largely ignored and benefit from only limited funding.

The WHO said NTDs disproportionately affect the poorest, mostly in areas where water safety, sanitation and access to health care are inadequate.

Soche Fall, director of the WHO’s NTD division, said they had been neglected precisely because they did not affect developed countries.

By comparison, he cited the funding directed at Mpox last year after it began to spread outside of Africa.

“The level of investment required – we are far from there,” he told a press briefing.

“We need to protect people wherever they are and whatever their social standing.”

Millions “freed”

In 2021, an estimated 1.65 billion people need treatment for at least one NTD, of which 857 million in Southeast Asia and 584 million in Africa.

The figure has decreased by 80 million since 2020 and has fallen steadily from 2.19 billion in 2010, the WHO said in a progress report released on World NTD Day.

But 16 countries account for 80 percent of the global burden of NTDs. These include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania.

As of December, 47 countries had eradicated at least one NTD, with eight certified as having eliminated one in 2022 alone.

“Around the world, millions of people are freed from the burden of neglected tropical diseases,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“We still have a lot of work to do. The good news is that we have the tools and know-how not only to save lives and prevent suffering, but to rid entire communities and countries of these diseases.”

The Guinea worm is almost exterminated

NTDs are caused by a variety of pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, and toxins.

These include bilharzia, Chagas disease, dengue, guinea worm, sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis, leprosy, river blindness, rabies, scabies, snakebite envenomation and trachoma.

“These diseases cause devastating health, social and economic consequences and, when not fatal, very often cause lifelong social stigma and subsequent economic hardship,” WHO said.

Fall said leprosy persists in 139 countries and dengue in 129, “so we’re a long way from elimination.”

Formerly endemic, Guinea worm is on track to become the second human disease in history to be eradicated, after smallpox, and the first without a cure or vaccine.

About 3.5 million human cases occurred in 1986, but only 13 were reported in 2022.

Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, said the West African country had eliminated trachoma and guinea worm and was on the verge of doing the same with sleeping sickness and leprosy.

“Investing in programs to eliminate NTDs creates a ripple effect in society. This leads to better outcomes in education, health and employment. It transforms lives and our communities,” he said in a statement.

“An Africa free of NTDs is possible.”

© 2023 AFP

Quote: WHO urges investment in neglected tropical diseases (2023, 30 January) retrieved on 30 January 2023 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2023-01-urges-investment-neglected-tropical-diseases. html

This document is subject to copyright. Except for any fair dealing for the purposes of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *