SCI Foundation is now Unlimit Health. Learn more about what the change means for our ongoing efforts to eliminate neglected tropical diseases
Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of 20 debilitating diseases caused by various pathogens. NTDs affect over 1 billion of the most marginalised populations in the world across 149 countries. Since these diseases are largely transmissible, they are driven by the environmental and social conditions in which people live such as low-quality housing, inadequate water, sanitation and health services, and political instability.
NTDs have a multidimensional relationship with poverty. Some, like leprosy and lymphatic filariasis, lead to disability and disfigurement, subjecting those affected to stigma and exclusion and affecting their mental health and livelihoods. Others, such as parasitic infections can cause long term health and educational outcomes, making it difficult to earn a living and limiting productivity in school and at work.
Approaches to tackling NTDs, particularly those amenable to treatment with preventive chemotherapy, have focused on disease control in order to reduce prevalence and severity of infections. More recently, there has been a significant shift in global targets and consequently in NTD programmes, including for schistosomiasis towards sustaining the impact of control programmes and achieving elimination (overall, or as a public health problem, depending on country context). But this means placing impact, cross-cutting approaches, and country ownership at the heart of everything we do.
As outlined in the World Health Organization (WHO) NTD road map for 2021 – 2030, NTDs are caused by, and can be best tackled through, multiple pathways, interventions and sectors, including water, sanitation, environment, behaviour, vector control and veterinary public health. As such, the companion documents to the road map such as the global strategy on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and NTDs and the One Health approach for action against NTDs highlight to health ministries and partners how other essential components for elimination of NTDs can be achieved in practice.
Health programmes must shift away from vertical funding and planning, and towards country ownership. However, having a context-specific, phased model, which aims to eliminate schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis through a health systems strengthening approach, is key. Championing country ownership must therefore focus on:
Our five-year strategy focuses on impact, strengthening health systems, and country ownership; aligning with the three pillars of the World Health Organization’s road map for neglected tropical diseases 2021-2030.
Read the strategy