World Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Day is observed today, and in recognition of this, WHO has released a new progress report titled “Global report on neglected tropical diseases 2023” that highlights the advancements and difficulties in the provision of NTD care globally against the backdrop of COVID-19-related disruptions.
NTDs continue to disproportionately affect the world’s poorest people, especially in places with insufficient access to health care, safe drinking water, and sanitation. Despite the fact that at least one case of NTDs was reported in as many as 179 nations and territories in 2021, 16 countries accounted for 80% of the worldwide NTD burden. Globally, it was anticipated that 1.65 billion people needed treatment for at least one NTD.
The new progress report shows that the number of people requiring NTD interventions fell by 80 million between 2020 and 2021, and eight countries were certified or validated as having eliminated one NTD in 2022 alone. As of December 2022, 47 countries had eliminated at least one NTD and more countries were in the process of achieving this target.
Accomplishments made in 2021-2022 build on a decade of significant progress. In 2021, 25% fewer people required interventions against NTDs than in 2010, and more than one billion people were treated for NTDs each year between 2016 and 2019 through mass treatment interventions.
“Around the world, millions of people have been liberated from the burden of neglected tropical diseases, which keep people trapped in cycles of poverty and stigma,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “But as this progress report shows, we still have a lot of work to do. The good news is, we have the tools and the know-how not just to save lives and prevent suffering, but to free entire communities and countries of these diseases. It’s time to act now, act together, and invest in NTDs.”
The report also notes the significant impact of COVID-19 had on community-based interventions and on access to health facilities, as well as on supply chains for healthcare products. This led to 34% fewer people receiving treatment for NTDs between 2019 and 2020, even if a general resumption of activities enabled a 11% increase in recovery in 2021, when approximately 900 million people were treated.
Act now. Act together. Invest in neglected tropical diseases
The new report emphasizes greater efforts and investments required to reverse delays and accelerate progress towards the NTD road map targets by 2030. Promoting country ownership and accountability, as well as the sustainability and predictability of financing, including more robust domestic funding, are key to achieving the NTD road map goals and enabling countries to deliver on their commitments to provide quality NTD services to affected populations.
Multi-sectoral collaboration and partnerships are vital to make this happen. Last week, WHO and Gilead Sciences signed a new agreement for the donation of 304 700 vials of AmBisome (liposomal amphotericin B for injection) for the treatment of visceral leishmaniasis in countries most impacted by the disease, extending their previous agreement to 2025. The new three-year collaboration is estimated at US$ 11.3 million and also makes provision for financial support to WHO.
WHO calls on additional partners and donors to step up and close the gaps preventing the full-scale implementation of NTD actions at the international and local levels. The Carter Center’s entry into official ties with WHO will be up for discussion during the 152nd session of the WHO Executive Board later this week.
Over 100 scientific guidelines, tools, and other information products were produced as a result of WHO’s NTD efforts in 2021 and 2022 to support the international NTD community, particularly underdeveloped nations. The Open WHO platform launched an NTD channel with 36 training courses on 19 different topics for healthcare professionals. The WHO is persistently working to ensure equity and respect for human rights in all NTD service delivery while continuing to assess and approve novel medications to treat neglected tropical diseases.