The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged nations to continue to confront inequalities that characterise the risk of neglected tropical diseases (NTD).
NTDs are a diverse group of 20 conditions that are caused by a variety of pathogens including viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi and toxins. They cause devastating health, social and economic consequences to more than one billion people.
The epidemiology of NTDs is complex and often related to environmental conditions. Many of them are vector-borne, have animal reservoirs and are associated with complex life cycles. All these factors make their public-health control challenging.
NTDs are prevalent mainly in rural areas, in conflict zones and hard-to reach-regions. They thrive in areas where access to clean water and sanitation is scarce – worsened by climate change, according to the WHO.
The organisation said that addressing these diseases requires cross-sectoral approaches and tackling associated mental health and other issues such as stigma and discrimination.
WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust millions of people deeper into poverty and affected those who already have limited access to health services. He therefore urged the global community to continue its work on NTDs during the pandemic
“Progress achieved over the last decade is the result of the excellent public-private partnership with countries endemic for NTDs and the unfaltering support of partners who endorsed the London Declaration in 2012” said Dr Gautam Biswas, acting director, WHO Department of Control of NTDs.
The WHO said that partners have been instrumental in supporting the implementation of disease programmes that is largely due to the availability of medicines, donated by several pharmaceutical companies representing an average of 1.6 billion tablets annually.