Last year, pharmaceutical companies donated medicine to treat 1.5 billion people for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), more than ever before.
The release of the Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases scorecard and report today underscores the urgency and the opportunity before us to control and eliminate the most common NTDs. For the first time, the global coverage rate exceeded 50 percent. But progress is not being made across all regions or all diseases. For instance, only 20 percent of the nearly 259 million people at risk of schistosomiasis received medication in 2015.
Four years ago, leaders from 13 pharmaceutical companies, the governments of the United States, United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank and other global health organizations pledged new and extended commitments in support of the WHO’s goal to control or eliminate 10 NTDs by 2020. The global effort to control and eliminate NTDs is now one of the largest public health initiatives in history. But the fourth progress report from Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases finds that many deadlines have been missed.
Just 40 of 73 countries are now on track to eliminate lymphatic filariasis by 2020, including India. Although India continues to have the most cases of lymphatic filariasis, 87% of endemic districts are now assessing whether they have interrupted transmission and, as a result, can stop mass drug administration.
Dr. P.K. Srivastava, the Joint Director – Nodal officer of India’s Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis Programme, shares his thoughts on India’s efforts and challenges in a post on our blog. No other government will have a greater influence on whether we reach the 2020 goals.
As we advance toward elimination goals, the challenges will change – mapping and wider use of new diagnostic tests will provide data needed to make more informed decisions. Ensuring that we have a full arsenal of tools including drugs, vaccines and diagnostics to complement existing treatment programs will be critical.
Ending extreme poverty and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires controlling and eliminating NTDs. Achieving NTD disease goals is projected to produce up to $184 in improved economic productivity for every dollar invested, helping to bring communities out of poverty (SDG 1). At the same time, strategies for success against NTDs are strongly linked with other development priorities, including universal health coverage (SDG 3) and water and sanitation (SDG 6).
Progress against NTDs over the last four years has accelerated, but not fast enough. As we approach the fifth anniversary of the London Declaration, the 2012 pledge to end NTDs by 2020, we must assist countries to scale up programs to ensure no one is left behind.