As part of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, several countries have joined the World Health Organisation (WHO) to roll out new targets for controlling five of 20 Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) by year-end.
The challenge to combat NTDs, estimated to affect around 1.7 billion people in 149 countries, mostly poor population, involves considerable resources, coordination, awareness programmes and getting people and communities to co-operate.
The aim of the NTDs programme is to get millions of poor out of the cycle of poverty and disease.
These diseases may be acute or chronic, disabling, disfiguring and stigmatizing and some may cause death or contribute to causing death.
They impair children’s physical and cognitive growth, promote poverty and as many of the drugs used in the treatment are toxic, they are difficult to administer.
During the Sustainable Development Goals event ‘Future Forward 2020: Building A Momentum for Inclusion And Elimination’, which is being held in India, ten diseases will be targeted.
Of these five - Bilharzia (schistosomiasis); Blinding trachoma; Elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis); Intestinal worms (soil-transmitted helminths); River blindness (onchocerciasis) - are being targeted through mass drug administration (MDA) or treatment of all people living in high-risk areas for treatment and reducing risks of transmission.
The other five NTDs - Chagas disease; Guinea worm disease; Leprosy; Sleeping sickness and Visceral leishmaniasis or Kala Azar (KA) - are being targeted through innovative and intensified disease management (IDM), including individual diagnosis and treatment (a surgery where needed), care, and rehabilitation of infected individuals.