Spread the word: We’re winning the global fight against Neglected Tropical Diseases

RTI | Int'l Dev
Apr 27, 2018 · 4 min read

By Paul Weisenfeld, Executive Vice President, International Development

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Children playing during NTD activities in Nigeria. Photo: RTI International/Scott McPherson

Visit the hub and submit your own winning stories at: www.beatntds.org

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) affect some of the world’s most vulnerable people. More than one billion around the world suffer from one or more NTDs, a burden that many must bear on top of extreme poverty, conflict, and economic instability.

But there is hope. A community has come together to fight back — and we are winning that fight.

In Haiti, a nurse named Jeancilien tests school children for lymphatic filariasis, a mosquito-borne worm disease that leads to radical and disfiguring swelling of the body.

In Uganda, a young person named Francis speaks out about the dangers of schistosomiasis, a potentially deadly parasitic disease he contracted while swimming in a lake.

In Nepal, a health worker named Bishal examines eyes for trachoma, the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness.

NTDs are treatable and preventable, especially with early detection. People and governments of endemic countries are leading a fight to control and eliminate them, with support from donors, foundations, the private sector and other passionate stakeholders.

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Jeancilien Yolanda records information and checks the results of a Transmission Assessment Survey for lymphatic filariasis. Photo: RTI International/Timothy La Rose.

Their efforts prove that the world will not accept a future in which NTDs harm global health and stability. Due to their commitment, no longer will NTDs threaten to take from the world’s most vulnerable their sight or ability to walk. No longer will they prevent children from going to school or their parents from earning a living.

These diseases can and are being controlled and eliminated. Some recent global successes include:

· Lymphatic filariasis has been eliminated as a public health problem in Cambodia, The Cook Islands, Egypt, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Niue, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Togo, Tonga and Vanuatu.

· Trachoma has been eliminated as a public health problem in Cambodia, Laos, Morocco, Oman and Mexico.

· Nepal is expected to announce elimination of trachoma this year.

· Vietnam is expected to announce elimination of lymphatic filariasis this year.

· Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Mexico have been verified free of onchocerciasis (river blindness).

Overall, around the world many countries and districts are seeing greatly reduced disease burdens. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 1.5 billion treatments were delivered to more than 1 billion people in 2016 alone. And in the countries that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is supporting to fight NTDs, nearly 200 million people are no longer at risk for lymphatic filariasis and nearly 85 million people are no longer at risk for trachoma.

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Schistosomiasis survivor Francis Angumya Duu stands on a beach on the banks of Victoria Lake in Entebbe, Uganda. Photo: RTI International/Katie G. Nelson

In other words, we’re winning.

And we’re not done yet. According to USAID, in the countries they are supporting:

As a result, by 2020, 400 million people will live in communities that no longer require treatment for lymphatic filariasis and 186 million people will not need treatment for trachoma. 70% of USAID supported countries are on track to stop treatment for lymphatic filariasis and trachoma by 2020.

How have we achieved this? With endemic counties at the forefront, and generous contributions from USAID, WHO, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, pharmaceutical companies and other committed stakeholders.

USAID’s global flagship NTD initiative is the ENVISION project. Supporting 19 NTD-endemic countries, ENVISION facilitates mass distribution of medicines that treat and prevent NTDs — more than 1.1 billion in its history. ENVISION strengthens the ability of countries and local communities to control and eliminate the diseases and measures the impact of interventions and overall progress.

We’re winning: spread the word!

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Bishal Dhakal, Trachoma Grader, completes a check for clinical signs of trachoma. Photo: RTI International/Nabin Baral

Who are the winners in the global fight against NTDs? People like Jeancilien, Francis, Bishal, and countless others who are reclaiming what NTDs took or threatened to take from them and their communities: the chance for a future filled with health, learning, opportunity and independence.

These stories need to be told. And this work needs to be finished.

RTI invites you to read and share these stories, and add others like them. We also invite you to read, share and add insights from NTD experts and resources to help others learn about these diseases and the road to elimination.

Join in spreading the word that the world is winning the fight against NTDs — and that it’s a fight worth finishing.

Visit the hub and submit your own winning stories: www.beatntds.org

Follow the conversation: #BeatNTDs

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