WHO calls for action to defeat neglected tropical diseases

Dengue fever, chikungunya, leprosy… the WHO called on Monday for more investment in the fight against neglected tropical diseases, from which more than 1.6 billion people suffer, pathologies neglected because they only affect the poorest countries of the world. world.

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are prevalent in areas where safe water, sanitation and access to health care are poor.

“These diseases are + neglected + because they are almost absent from the global health agenda”, underlined the director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a message published on the occasion of the World NTD Day.

“Little funds are devoted to them and they come with stigma and social exclusion,” he added.

In 2021, around 1.65 billion people needed treatment for at least one of these NTDs, 80 million fewer than in 2020.

The number of people needing treatment has fallen over the past decade. They were still 2.19 billion in 2010, indicated the WHO in a new report.

But 16 countries account for 80% of the global NTD burden. They include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania.

Despite the difficulties in combating these diseases, 47 countries had eliminated at least one of them by the end of 2022. And eight of these countries had eliminated one in the last year alone.

“Worldwide, millions of people have been freed from the burden of neglected tropical diseases,” said Dr. Tedros, while emphasizing that much remains to be done.

“The good news is that we have the tools and the know-how to not only save lives and prevent suffering, but also to free entire communities and countries from these diseases,” he said. .

– “It’s time to act” –

NTDs are a diverse group of 20 conditions that occur mainly in tropical areas, where they affect poorer communities. These diseases, such as Chagas disease, dengue fever, chikungunya and leprosy, are caused by different pathogens (viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi and toxins).

Their epidemiology is complex and often linked to environmental conditions. Many of them are transmitted by vectors, come from animal reservoirs and are associated with “complex life cycles”, according to the WHO.

All these factors make the fight against these diseases difficult in terms of public health.

In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic and the evolution in the field of financing, make the fight against NTDs difficult.

“It is time to act now, to act together and invest in NTDs,” urged Dr Tedros.

According to the director of the NTD department at the WHO, Dr. Socé Fall, these diseases are neglected by the international community because they do not affect developed countries.

By way of comparison, he pointed out that the fight against Mpox (formerly called monkeypox) only began when the disease started spreading in wealthy countries last year, when the disease had been endemic for many years in African countries.

“We are far” from reaching the level of investment needed to fight NTDs, he told reporters last Friday.

“Now is the time to have more equity. We must protect people wherever they are, and whatever their social condition,” he asked.

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