Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), has launched a new report, which indicates the remarkable achievements the world has made in tackling Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) since 2007.
The report, titled: “Integrating Neglected Tropical Diseases in Global Health and Development,” has revealed that more people are being reached with NTD interventions than ever before.
Dr Chan said: “Over the past 10 years, millions of people have been rescued from disability and poverty, thanks to one of the most effective global partnerships in modern public health.”
The launch of the report formed part of the ongoing week long summit, which also marks the fifth anniversary of the London Declaration, a historic document signed by leaders from diverse sectors committed to controlling, eliminating or eradicating 10 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2020.
Representatives of Member States, donor agencies, foundations, the private sector, academia and stakeholders and pharmaceutical companies are participating in the summit.
The report indicated that since the London Declaration, fewer people were now suffering from these disabling diseases and many countries were eliminating them entirely.
NTDs are a group of debilitating infectious diseases such as elephantiasis, river blindness and trachoma that affect the world’s poorest communities.
These gains, have made possible by strong global partnerships, country leadership and investments in innovation and technology.
“WHO has observed record-breaking progress towards bringing ancient scourges like sleeping sickness and elephantiasis to their knees,” Dr Chan added.
The WHO report, demonstrates how strong political support, generous donations of medicines, improvements in living conditions, have led to sustained expansion of disease control programmes in countries where these diseases are most prevalent.
Since 2007, when a group of global partners met to agree to tackle NTDs together, a variety of local and international partners have worked alongside ministries of health in endemic countries to deliver quality-assured medicines, and provide people with care and long-term management.
In 2012, partners endorsed a WHO NTD Roadmap, committing additional support and resources to eliminating 10 of the most common NTDs.
Key achievements include:1 billion people treated for at least one neglected tropical disease in 2015 alone; 556 million people received preventive treatment for lymphatic filariasis also known as Elephantiasis.
More than 114 million people received treatment for onchocerciasis (river blindness: 62 per cent of those requiring it; only 25 human cases of guinea worm disease were reported in 2016, putting eradication within reach.
Cases of human African Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) have been reduced from 37,000 new cases in 1999 to well under 3,000 cases in 2015, the report indicated.
Trachoma, which is seen as the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness, has been eliminated as a public health problem in Oman, Morocco and Mexico.
More than 185 000 trachoma patients had surgery for trichiasis worldwide and more than 56 million people received antibiotics in 2015 alone;
According to the report, Visceral leishmaniasis: in 2015 the target for elimination was achieved in 82 per cent of sub-districts in India, 97 percent of sub-districts in Bangladesh, and in 100 percent of districts in Nepal.
Only 12 reported human deaths were attributable to rabies in the Region of the Americas in 2015, bringing the area close to its target of eliminating rabies in humans by 2015.
However, the report has highlighted the need to further scale up action in other areas.
Meeting global targets for water and sanitation will be key. WHO estimates that 2.4 billion people still lack basic sanitation facilities such as toilets and latrines, while more than 660 million continue to drink water from “unimproved” sources, such as surface water.
Dr Chan explained that, global concern about the recent outbreaks of Zika virus disease, and its associated complications, has re-energized efforts to improve vector control.
“In May this year, the World Health Assembly will review proposals for a new Global vector control response”, she added.
She said there were also brighter prospects to prioritize cross-sectoral collaboration to promote veterinary public health.
“Further gains in the fight against neglected tropical diseases will depend on wider progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals,” Dr Dirk Engels, Director of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases, added.