Together with a wide range of experts and advocates from the neglected tropical disease (NTD), nutrition and broader development community, the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases is excited to launch a new policy brief.
Toward a Healthy Future: Working Together to End Neglected Tropical Diseases & Malnutrition – examines the relationship between NTDs and malnutrition, and the actions needed to address both of these challenges. The evidence linking intestinal worm infections and schistosomiasis underscore the importance of tackling these two problems together:
- NTDs and malnutrition are geographically linked: all of the 34 countries carrying the highest levels of malnutrition are also endemic for NTDs. In fact, ten of these countries make up 90 percent of the global NTD burden.
- Poor nutrition increases susceptibility to parasitic disease infections, while NTDs, like intestinal worms and schistosomiasis, are underlying causes of stunting, wasting and micronutrient deficiencies.
- Poor access to water, sanitation and poor hygiene practices are well-known contributing factors to the spread of NTDs
Encouraging work is being done to address these issues. A number of multilateral organizations, governments, NGOs and endemic countries are already implementing programs that deliver treatments for intestinal worms and schistosomiasis alongside other nutrition and health interventions, effectively leveraging policies and delivery strategies. The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014, published by the Food & Agricultural Organization, revealed that the children suffering from undernutrition has fallen by 100 million over the last decade. The United to Combat NTDs: Delivering on Promises and Driving Progress report showed that in 2013, nearly 1.35 billion NTD treatments were donated and over 70 countries developed national NTD plans.
While these are important steps in the right direction, a funding gap stands in the way of ensuring that these treatments reach the people who need them. To reduce malnutrition and control and eliminate NTDs, the global health community must build upon this work and scale up deworming alongside nutrition interventions, such as Vitamin A and iron supplementation.
The Global Network’s policy brief calls for international policymakers and advocates to:
- Recognize the impacts of NTDs and malnutrition and the clear benefits of addressing these issues in tandem.
- Expand access to routine deworming treatments for all populations at risk, including pre-school- and school-aged children, women of childbearing age and pregnant women through existing treatments and delivery platforms.
- Include deworming as a strategy to improve health and nutrition for mothers and children
- Ensure sustainability by simultaneously investing in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and other social determinants of health.
- Increase resources and link policies that facilitate joint programming and partnerships
- Mobilize greater political and financial support for NTDs and malnutrition during international and regional fora.