Investments in Neglected Tropical Diseases key to development – Report

A report on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), has revealed that many countries are increasingly taking ownership of NTD programmes and are pursuing innovative approaches to combat these devastating diseases.

While these new methods have produced substantial progress, a further scale-up is necessary to reach the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 2020 targets, the report said.

The report authored by Uniting to Combat NTDs, highlights dramatic health and economic benefits from investing in combating neglected tropical diseases.

The report launched in London is entitled Country Leadership and Collaboration on Neglected Tropical Diseases and it comes on the heels of increased attention to NTDs at the World Health Assembly and inclusion in the recent G7 Leaders’ Declaration.

“It is encouraging to see increased state-level engagement and strong leadership towards ownership of national control programs,” said Dr Dirk Engels, WHO Director of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases.

“Sustained political commitment, innovative domestic financing and greater coordination can bring about game-changing treatments and care to millions of people and improve the prospects of achieving WHO’s goal of universal health coverage against NTDs.”

The report commended Ghana’s integrated and comprehensive NTDs programme as it has been certified Guinea Worm Disease-free in January 2015.

It said Ghana is one of 10 countries home to 70 per cent of people affected by schistosomiasis and 261 million people worldwide need treatment.

The report said Ghana has developed a finance strategy for NTD sustainability, linked to its master plan that includes resource tracking to better understand resource needs, and has helped secure thousands of dollars from private local sources in 2014.

It said achieving the WHO targets for control and elimination of the London Declaration NTDs in Ghana would create $1.8 billion in increased productivity from 2015-2030.

It said global coverage is increasing with approximately 785 million people (43 per cent of at-risk populations) were reached with at least one drug, compared to around 35 per cent in 2008.

The report said 126 cases of Guinea worm disease were reported in 2014, a staggering 99.99 per cent drop since 1986 with only five cases reported so far in 2015.

It said of the 81 countries endemic for Lymphatic filariasis (LF), 25 countries (31per cent) are no longer in need of mass drug administration, including 10, which have successfully eliminated transmission.

The report said fewer than 4,000 new cases of human African trypanosomiasis (also known as sleeping sickness) were reported to WHO last year, the lowest level in at least 75 years.

It said since last December, 26 ministers of health have pledged to take ownership and increase local investment in NTD efforts as part of the Addis Ababa NTD Commitment.

Several countries have already taken on primary responsibility for financing their NTD programmes; Bangladesh, paid 85 per cent and the Philippines 94 per cent of their NTD programmes, and Honduras recently became the first Latin American country to launch a national NTD programme fully financed by the government.

Country Leadership and Collaboration on Neglected Tropical Diseases is the third progress report since a diverse public-private coalition of partners endorsed the 2012 London Declaration on NTDs, committing to achieve the WHO’s 2020 targets for 10 NTDs diseases of poverty that affect one in six people worldwide.

The report said NTD programmes provide an enormous return on investment; keep children out of school, parents out of work, and cause stunting and impaired brain development, locking societies into endless cycles of poverty. GNA

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