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Improve resistance to neglected tropical diseases, WHO urges

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A mother and her daughter in Barranquilla, Colombia. National authorities are going door to door to control mosquitoes that can carry Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya. PAHO/WHO Joshua E. Cogan

To mark World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Sunday called for an international push to confront the inequalities that characterize NTDs, and ensure the poorest and most marginalized communities who are the most impacted, receive the health services they need.

In his message for the day, WHO Director-General, 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.

The Day provides an opportunity to re-energize momentum to end the suffering from these 20 diseases that are caused by a variety of pathogens including viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi and toxins.

WHO and other stakeholders fighting NTDs, have been holding several events to mark it, which this year, coincides with World Leprosy Day.

WHO held 2 events this week, World NTD Day 2022: Achieving health equity to end the neglect of poverty-related diseases and  Mobilizing the World to Defeat Neglected Tropical Diseases, while partners involved government and industry leaders through the ‘100% committed’ campaign on Thursday, which aims to support the roadmap for neglected tropical diseases, for 2021-2030.

“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 Neglected Tropical Diseases. “It is exciting to see political will gearing up around the Kigali Declaration to achieve the new road map targets for 2030.”

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Devastating consequences

NTDs are a diverse group of 20 conditions that are caused by a variety of pathogens including viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi and toxins. They can often result in devastating health, social and economic consequences, for more than one billion people worldwide.

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, says WHO. 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. Addressing these diseases effectively requires a huge amount of cooperation, as well as tackling associated mental health and other issues such as stigma and discrimination.

‘One health’ approach

(WHO) has published a document that aims to support countries, international organizations, and partners to work together to identify common grounds to maximize efforts to control and eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

Ending the neglect to attain the sustainable development goals. One health: approach for action against neglected tropical diseases 2021-2030 – a companion document to the current NTD road map – provides guidance on actions that are needed by stakeholders and how to support a paradigm shift towards new national programmes.

“Engagement in One Health is growing” said Dr. Bernadette Abela-Ridder, of the WHO Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases. “Building One Health into NTD programmes will ensure the contribution of partners from various sectors in increasing the health gains of people, animals and the environment”

Improve resistance to neglected tropical diseases, WHO urges

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that can carry Zika as well as Dengue and Chikungunya viruses. Photo: IAEA/Dean Calma

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