The World Health Organization (WHO) is encouraging affected countries to increase their efforts against neglected 17 tropical diseases, saying such an investment “would represent as little as 0.1% of current domestic expenditure on health in affected low- and middle-income countries” between now and 2030.
More than 100 million people in the Americas have one or more of these so-called neglected infectious diseases, which include Chagas, leprosy, malaria, blinding trachoma, and soil-transmitted helminths, according to WHO. The infections can have such life-altering effects as blindness, disability, and disfigurement—and can even cause death, especially in impoverished areas.
The report, “Investing to Overcome the Impact of Neglected Tropical Diseases,” explains why more money and effort is needed to combat these infections. "These diseases can be eliminated, and many of them can be addressed through low-cost, integrated actions," said Marcos Espinal, director of the Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO/WHO) Department of Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis, in a prepared statement.
“As the world’s focus shifts from development to sustainable development, from poverty eradication to shared prosperity, and from disease-specific goals to universal health coverage, control of neglected tropical diseases will assume an important role towards the target of achieving universal health coverage, including individual financial risk protection,” WHO said in a summary of the new report. “Success in overcoming NTDs is a ‘litmus test’ for universal health coverage against NTDs in endemic countries.”
The goal is to eliminate the following diseases between 2015 and 2020: lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, blinding trachoma, Chagas disease, malaria, leprosy, congenital syphilis, neonatal tetanus, rabies transmitted by dogs, and plague. Also, WHO hopes to bring soil-transmitted helminths and schistosomiasis under control.
Some progress has already been made in the Americas, according to WHO. For example, “onchocerciasis has been eliminated in Colombia and Ecuador. Guatemala and Mexico are on track to eliminate transmission, leaving just one border area between Brazil and Venezuela with ongoing transmission of the disease.” Progress has also been made in fighting leprosy, endemic Chagas disease, schistosomiasis, endemic lymphatic filariasis, soil-transmitted helminths, malaria, syphilis, human rabies, and blinding trachoma.