SEATTLE — Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are transmittable infections that are prevalent in tropical and subtropical environments. Affecting more than one billion individuals and costing billions of dollars every year, NTDs are slowly devastating the most marginalized parts of the world. Those that live in vulnerable conditions without adequate hygienic practices and in close contact with livestock and domestic animals make up the vast majority of those that are affected.The END Fund is a leader in the health movement working towards putting an end to NTDs.
Relatively unrecognized by the international society, NTDs are a significant factor in the number of years lost in an individual’s life due to either having a disability or premature death. When using disability-adjusted life years, the burden of living with an NTD is far greater than that of having malaria or tuberculosis. NTDs are so rampant that they rank among respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS and diarrheal diseases as the top four most crippling communicable diseases.
Aside from causing physical and emotional pain, these devastating diseases prevent people from working, keep children from attending school, and hinder families from thriving. Social stigma is a major result of living with NTDs.
The END Fund is putting an end to NTDs through their collaborative partnership with committed partners comprised of global health organizations, investors, pharmaceutical companies, leaders from the developing world touched by NTDs and most importantly, those who suffer from the neglected diseases themselves. The END Fund focuses on combating the five most widespread NTDs: intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis, trachoma and river blindness.
Intestinal worms are the most common NTDs worldwide. Internationally, there are 700 million people living with hookworm, 807 million infected with ascariasis and 604 million affected by trichuriasis, all forms of intestinal worms. Transmission mainly occurs in tropical environments and where there are no proper sanitation and hygiene practices.
Globally, there are more than 230 million people at risk of schistosomiasis. Schistosomiasis is a chronic disease caused by worms that inhabit certain freshwater snails. In sub-Saharan Africa, the disease accounts for more than 200,000 deaths a year. Long-term infection can harm the bladder, the kidneys or the liver.
More than 1.3 billion people in 72 countries globally are at risk of lymphatic filariasis. Although infection usually is contracted in childhood, the effects of lymphatic filariasis are seen mostly in adults, including lymphedema and disfigurement of the extremities. Of the 120 million people infected with lymphatic filariasis, 40 million are either disabled or disfigured by the disease.
Trachoma is the leading cause of blindness. This disease is transmitted via direct contact with those that are infected and also through contact with contaminated flies. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that trachoma affects about 21.4 million people worldwide, of which 2.2 million are visually incapacitated and 1.2 million are blind.
River blindness is an eye and skin disease that is caused by a parasitic worm, transferred by the bite of a black fly that thrives on the banks of rivers and streams. In 2010, the WHO’s Africa Regional Office approximated that there were 37 million people infected with river blindness and more than 102 million people at risk of contracting the disease, solely in Africa.
Since its establishment, the END Fund has assembled over $75 million towards putting an end to NTDs, like those listed above, all of which can be treated with medication that has been pledged by pharmaceuticals for mass drug administration programs.
In partnership with government partners and NGOs on the ground, the END fund treats NTDs by following an implementation model that is tailored to the needs of specific countries.
Effective implementation requires comprehending the level of the problem and creating a strong mass drug administration campaign targeted to reaching and healing the right people. The model catalyzes resources, builds volume among healthcare personnel and mobilizes the population to issue medication for maximum efficiency at the lowest cost possible.
Neglected tropical diseases reinforce poverty. Putting an end to NTDs by enforcing global health programs and advocacy campaigns would be a means towards lifting a billion people out of poverty and preventing needless deaths.
– Zainab Adebayo