Britain increases support to battle against neglected tropical diseases

20 April, 2017, 08:44 | Author: Eloise Marshall
  • A scientist prepares to examine an expected Ebola victim. Tropical diseases affect more than a billion people of the poorest communities in the world

Speaking ahead of the World Health Organisation conference on neglected tropical diseases in Geneva today (19 April), Priti Patel, Britain's worldwide development secretary, said such diseases belonged to the last century.

"So for diseases like elephantiasis, Guinea worm disease, schistosomiasis, the intestinal worms and trachoma, you can regularly treat people with safe, single dose drugs and then they never actually build up a worm load that could cause them problems", said Engels. "Yet they are treatable", said Patel.

United Kingdom spending on NTD measures between 2012 and 2016 had averaged nearly £30 million per year - the new package will more than double that.

India eliminated visceral leishmaniasis, also known as kala azar, in over 80 per cent of its sub-districts in 2015, the World Health Organization today said while noting that remarkable achievements have been made by nations in tackling neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) since 2007. "The UK government understands that helping people help themselves is an honourable and cost-effective way to reduce poverty and increase hope".

"They have given away these drugs in very, very large quantities and what we have seen is that the limitations thereabout - the lead times, the volumes where they were available, how long they would be available - those have gone away over the last five years". More than 1.6 billion treatments have now reached 31 countries.

NTDs affect 1.4 billion people in the poorest parts of the world.

They cost billions of dollars every year to developing economies because adults affected are too ill to go to work.

Elephantiasis - also known as Lymphatic filariasis - is transmitted by mosquitoes. In its most severe (visceral) form, it attacks the internal organs.

Among the illnesses listed there were trachoma, river blindness, and guinea worm. Guinea-worm disease is on track for eradication as only 25 human cases of the disease remain.

The Gates Foundation has committed $335m in grants over the next four years to support NTD programmes focused on drug development and delivery, disease surveillance and vector control. It will also pay for the training of local health staff.

"With all of this, it is a national priority to eliminate NTDs, including Onchocerciasis or river blindness", she said.

The UK will spend £360 million of aid money as part of a drive to eradicate tropical diseases which cause suffering for hundreds of millions of people around the world.

"We are close to finishing off this debilitating disease", Carter said, speaking by video from Atlanta, Georgia.

She said a great deal has been achieved since Uganda started a program to control the disease in the early 1990s. "The diseases aren't almost as neglected as they were when we coined the phrase in 2005, but there is still lots of work to be done".

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is a major donor to research into tropical diseases, welcomed the announcement.

But there are effective treatments for many neglected tropical diseases, which has allowed richer countries with better sanitation and health systems to effectively eliminate them.

Integrating neglected tropical diseases in global health and development is being released at the Global Partners' Meeting on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in Geneva, on 19 April 2017.

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