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Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)

What are NTDs?

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are a range of parasitic, bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. NTDs are mainly prevalent in tropical and sub-tropical areas, and mainly affect the poorest people in society. They are grouped together due to their often chronic, disfiguring, and stigmatising impact, their close association with poverty, and their geographic overlap. There are twenty diseases in the portfolio of NTDs (river blindness and lymphatic filariasis are both neglected tropical diseases) categorised by the World Health Organization (WHO) with a series of targets of varying ambition relating to their control, elimination of transmission, elimination as a public health problem by 2030 – and ultimate eradication.

NTDs are found in several countries in Africa, Asia, the Pacific and Latin America, most often in places where people do not have access to clean water or safe ways to dispose of human waste. NTDs impose a human, social and economic burden on over 1 billion people in all countries of the world. The burden is particularly severe in low-income countries and in the most disadvantaged communities in middle-income countries. Eliminating the spread of neglected tropical diseases worldwide would save thousands of lives each year.

Boy sitting on water jugs

What Causes NTDs?

Many neglected tropical diseases are vector-borne, and many have an animal reservoir as part of their lifecycle. Controlling the vectors (e.g., mosquitoes or black flies) that transmit these diseases and improving basic water, sanitation and hygiene are highly effective strategies against these NTDs.

Prevention and Treatment Of NTDs

There are five strategies for tackling NTDs:

  • Preventive chemotherapy
  • Disease management
  • Vector ecology and management
  • Veterinary public health and One Health Approaches
  • Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene
Image credit: The Carter Center/E.Staub - Woman with LF talking to group of people
Image credit: The Carter Center/E.Staub

A group of children smiling

Elimination Of Neglected Tropical Diseases

In 2020, the World Health Organization approved a revised Roadmap for NTDs 2021-2030, which aims to strengthen the global response via three important shifts:

  • Stronger accountability by shifting from process to impact indicators
  • Integrated approaches that shift away from vertical programming
  • Stronger country ownership