SEATTLE – As the 2015 Millennium Development deadline approaches, humanitarian organizations and state governments turn their attention to neglected tropical diseases (NTDs,) a key target of their post-2015 Development Agenda.
The 17 existing NTDs affect more than one billion people worldwide, though they disproportionately affect the poor, children, women and persons with disability. Although causes and symptoms vary, NTDs typically impair growth, mental development, and blindness.
Some of the most common, such as soil-transmitted helminthes and Schistomiasis, are preventable through regularly administered pills, vector control and pesticide management and improved water and sanitation conditions. However, despite their prevalence and impact, until recently, NTDs had garnered little attention and funding from the media, government, or aid organizations, as more fatal tropical diseases like malaria and tuberculosis took precedence.
Growing awareness of the disease’s effects has led to a concerted effort to treat and prevent NTDs. Beginning in 2012 at the London Declaration on Neglected tropical diseases, governments, companies and organizations agreed to coordinate efforts in their elimination of at least 10 NTDs by 2020.
Moreover, relief organizations argue that eliminating NTDs is essential to the success of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs.) Established in 2000 by over 35 global partners, the eight Millennium Goals focus on reducing global poverty, improving health, education, and gender equality.
The Christian Blind Mission, a relief organization dedicated to improving the health of the poorest communities in the world, argue that NTDs negatively impact “virtually all MDGs” and “hinder development, keeping individuals and communities trapped in a cycle of poverty.”
In concurrence with this sentiment, secretary general of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon stated in a letter to the Global Network for NTDs that “poverty reduction and the elimination of NTDs go hand-in-hand” and welcomed efforts to increase global partnerships as established by the London Declaration.
Thus far, their efforts have resulted in over 60 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean adopting NTD prevention procedures. Additionally, 13 pharmaceutical companies pledged 14 billion pills to NTD treatment, a sum that lowers medicinal distribution costs to 50 cents per person annually.
The movement still suffers from a $300 million budget deficit but organizations are relying on increasing advocacy efforts to ensure that their 2020 goal is met.
– Emily Bajet