DFID Support to the Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases: The Context

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) have tended to receive little attention because of the once-widespread assumption that people at risk of NTDs experience relatively little morbidity, and that these diseases have low rates of mortality. These views have been comprehensively refuted (WHO 2010a). NTDs have a substantial health and economic burden on poor populations. They cause about 534,000 deaths every year, and share a similar burden of disease to either malaria or tuberculosis (Conteh et al 2010). The best available estimates indicate that some 2 billion people are at risk of contracting an NTD and more than 1 billion people are affected by one or more NTD.1 In addition, their impact is often underestimated as many of the effects (e.g. anaemia, diarrhoea) are attributed to other causes. Nevertheless, control of NTDs represents some of the best buys in international public health in terms of costs per disability adjusted life year (DALY) averted. In some cases growth and physical defects can be reversed by treatment for helminthiasis. The poor, and other marginalised groups, suffer disproportionately, and although significant progress is being made many trends pose particular challenges – for example climate change, greater urbanisation and migration.

Reduction in the health burden related to NTDs should accelerate progress towards MDG 1 (improved nutrition), MDGs 2 and 3 (increased likelihood for school attendance especially for girls who are often more adversely affected by NTDs), as well as the health related MDGs (4, 5 and 6).

Although there is potential to eliminate some NTDs, there remains considerable uncertainty on how to do this and how rapidly it can be achieved. The need to sustain high levels of coverage in difficult settings poses major challenges. In some cases effective tools are available; in others current tools are inadequate. This report, and DFID’s support, focuses on those NTDs for which tools are available.

This documents reports on:

  • Landmarks and political commitment
  • Current status of ‘tool ready’ NTDs
  • Key Public health interventions
  • Funding


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