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Overcoming Neglect: Finding ways to manage and control Neglected Tropical Diseases
No more neglected diseases, no more neglected patients
(27 January 2021) Patients with neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) need better access to diagnosis and to treatment that is safe and effective, said Médecins Sans Frontières in a new report today that calls for an improved global response to NTDs in order to prevent further deaths and disability.
Overcoming Neglect Report
The report, Overcoming Neglect, details Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) involvement with neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) over the last three decades.
Our work includes treating patients, carrying out operational research, supporting efforts to identify new treatments and diagnostics; and playing an active role in reducing their incidence. We call for an improved global response to NTDs, better access to diagnosis and safe, effective treatment and care for patients.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of people still die from NTDs. These diseases, and the people they impact, are overlooked by policy makers and there are little resources available to address them.
For many of these diseases, there is no easy solution - diagnosis and treatment are difficult or simply not accessible. Chronic poverty in combination with NTDs often equals death or prolonged disability.
For some of the most life threatening NTDs, MSF is often one of the only organisations providing direct patient care. Over the last 30 years, MSF teams have treated hundreds of thousands of patients suffering from Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis), sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis) and visceral leishmaniasis (VL or kala azar); deadly parasitic NTDs which affect impoverished populations living in very remote and underserved areas.
With this report, we aim to show the devastating impact NTDs have on millions of the world’s poorest people. We hope that by highlighting the main issues facing their treatment and control, and sharing MSF’s experience, will result in more attention for NTDs, and an improvement in the lives of NTD patients.
“NTDs almost exclusively affect people living in extreme poverty. As a result, there are no vaccines, diagnostic tools are limited, and treatments are far from optimal and often unavailable or unaffordable for many of these deadly and debilitating diseases” said Dr Christos Christou, MSF’s International President.
Despite much progress in the fight against NTDs, some of the most life-threatening diseases remain far from elimination or even control, and continue to claim hundreds of thousands of lives every year.
New road map
The launch of a new road map for NTDs by the World Health Organization presents an opportunity to support the development of treatments, vaccines, and diagnostic tools for NTDs.
Its ambitious targets include eliminating at least one NTD in 100 countries and reducing by 90 per cent the number of people requiring medical interventions for them by 2030.
Impact of Covid-19
But the new road map comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic threatens progress towards the control and elimination of NTDs.
NTD programmes have been disrupted, fragile health systems are under even further strain, and there are alarming indications that resources for NTDs will be diverted and funding reduced.
Despite the challenges, we can overcome the neglect
There is a real risk that NTDs could slide into further neglect, the significant achievements over the past years are reversed, and that even more lives are lost to NTDs.
“Despite the challenges, we can overcome the neglect” said Christou. “With commitments, funds and better tools to find, diagnose and treat patients; we can make NTDs diseases of the past.”