The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published the Fourth Report on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), showing transformational progress in efforts to control and eliminate NTDs.

NTDs are some of the oldest and most painful diseases, afflicting the world’s poorest communities. One in six people suffer from NTDs worldwide, including more than half a billion children.

The new report, titled Integrating Neglected Tropical Diseases in Global Health and Development, reveals that more people are being reached with needed NTD interventions than ever before.

The report shows that in 2015, nearly a billion people received treatments donated by pharmaceutical companies for at least one NTD, representing a 36% increase since 2011.

“WHO has observed record-breaking progress towards bringing ancient scourges like sleeping sickness and elephantiasis to their knees,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan.

“Over the past 10 years, millions of people have been rescued from disability and poverty, thanks to one of the most effective global partnerships in modern public health,” continued Dr Chan.

The report detailed progress against each disease, citing countries and regions that are reaching control and elimination goals for specific NTDs. For instance, the report states that Guinea worm disease is nearing eradication with only 25 human cases being reported in 2016 in just three countries – Chad, Ethiopia and South Sudan; and in 2015, there were fewer reported cases of sleeping sickness than any other year in history, with fewer than 3,000 cases worldwide – an 89% reduction since 2000.

Progress against NTDs has been enabled by the large-scale donation of medicines by 10 pharmaceutical companies through the London Declaration on NTDs, a joint commitment to control, eliminate or eradicate NTDs, signed by WHO, 13 pharmaceutical companies, donor and endemic country governments, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank.

In the five years since the launch of the London Declaration, companies have donated over 7 billion treatments that, with the support of partners, now reach nearly 1 billion people every year. These donations, worth an estimated $19 billion from 2012 through 2020, greatly multiply the impact of donor investments; USAID estimates that each dollar invested in delivery leverages $26 worth of donated drugs.

The release of the WHO report coincided with a summit in Geneva where leaders from governments, pharmaceutical companies and charitable organisations reaffirmed their 2012 pledge to do their part to beat NTDs, and encouraged other sectors to maintain their commitments as well.

Although nearly a billion people received NTD treatments in 2015, more funding is needed to ensure that NTD programmes reach all people and communities affected by the diseases. WHO estimates that 340 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa could be covered by new investments of $150 million per year through the year 2020.

For more information contact, like us on Facebook or tweet us @eHealthNewsZA.