Joint action to combat neglected tropical diseases
The global burden of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) affects over 1.7 billion people living in poverty, predominantly in South America, Africa and Asia.
In the past decade, the global health community has made strides in controlling and eliminating NTDs – a group of diseases that can be painful and debilitating, not just in terms of health but also on livelihoods.
Multisectoral partnerships for greater impact
The health, social and economic gains made with the WHO roadmaps on NTDs and the implementation of the commitments of the London Declaration are tangible in families and communities. Over a billion people have been treated for an NTD and 42 countries have eliminated at least one NTD.
For example, visceral leishmaniasis has almost been eliminated in Bangladesh and Nepal. Since the launch of the global programme for lymphatic filariasis (LF) in 2000, there has been a 74% decline in the number of people infected and a 43% reduction in the global population requiring mass drug administration. Togo recently became the first African country to eliminate both human African sleeping sickness and LF as well.
We have also witnessed new ways to ensure these diseases are no longer ‘neglected’. Biopharmaceutical companies have been increasing investment in R&D for NTDs, have been pioneering collaborative approaches to catalyse innovation.
One such example is WIPO Re:Search, which unites public and private sector assets to boost early stage R&D in neglected diseases by matching resources and royalty-free sharing of intellectual property assets. WIPO Re:Search also bolsters research capacity in NTD-endemic countries by providing scientists access to researchers and resources that might not otherwise be available to them.
Sustaining successes toward ending NTDs
Despite these outstanding accomplishments, much remains to be done at global, regional and national levels. To maintain momentum and build on these successes, multisectoral partners will renew and reenergise their commitments and actions to control, eliminate and eradicate NTDs in the imminent Kigali Declaration in January 2022.
Greater ownership by endemic countries and shifting the role of donor partners to filling gaps is a critical factor for long term, sustained success. Strengthening health systems of endemic countries in order to combat NTDs requires undeterred political will and commitment through country-led, targeted strategies whose operationalisation is supported by domestic resources. Together, through coordinated and consistent actions, we can determinably combat NTDs over the next decade.
This op-ed was originally published for Media Planet’s Neglected Tropical Diseases campaign on 27 September 2021.