SCI Foundation is now Unlimit Health. Learn more about what the change means for our ongoing efforts to eliminate neglected tropical diseases

What are neglected tropical diseases?

A boy wearing a white and yellow long sleeved t-shirt and shorts with his back to the camera stands at the edge of a body of water covered in lily pads. There are trees on the other side of the water.
Said looks out across the dam where he came into contact with the schistosome parasite in Pemba, Zanzibar. Image by: Unlimit Health/William Mgobela

NTDs include: buruli ulcer, chagas disease, dengue and chikungunya, dracunculiasis, echinococcosis, foodborne trematodiases, human African trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, mycetoma, chromoblastomycosis and other deep mycoses, onchocerciasis, rabies, scabies and other ectoparasitoses, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiases, snakebite envenoming, taeniasis and cysticercosis, trachoma, and yaws. 

The epidemiology of NTDs is complex; some have animal and/or human reservoirs, many are vector-borne, and most are associated with intricate life cycles. Preventing or eliminating NTDs is therefore challenging.   

People affected by  parasitic infections experience long term adverse health and educational outcomes, making it difficult for them to earn a living and limiting productivity in school and at work. Some NTDs, such as lymphatic filariasis, can cause severe disfigurement and disability, leading to stigmatisation and social exclusion, which in turn can impact mental health and economic productivity.  


Why are they called ‘neglected’ tropical diseases? 


A woman washes a blanket at the edge of a body of water. A person in a fishing boat is visible in the background.
Prossy washes her blanket in the river at Kabaganda Landing site in Namasagali, Kamuli district, Uganda. Image by: Unlimit Health/Malaika Media.

The word ‘neglected’ is used because these diseases generally affect people who are underserved and marginalised, lacking access to basic services, and whose political influence may be limited. This results in the neglect of these diseases in domestic and global health agendas, in terms of political prioritisation and resource allocation.   


How can neglected tropical diseases be eliminated? 


The World Health Organization NTD road map for 2021-2030 sets out ambitious targets, aligned with those of the Sustainable Development Goals, for tackling many of these diseases. As outlined in the road map, addressing NTDs requires a comprehensive approach, working across different sectors including health, water, sanitation, environment, behaviour, vector control and veterinary public health. Subsequently, the global strategy on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and NTDs and the One Health approach for action against NTDs demonstrate how other essential components for elimination of NTDs can be achieved in practice.  

To succeed, NTD programmes are shifting away from funding and delivering disease-specific interventions in isolation, towards inclusion in existing health services. Find out how we are working with our ministry of health partners to encourage cross-sectoral collaboration and country-owned solutions that eliminate preventable infections in our 2023 – 2028 strategy. 

Unlimit Health focuses on:

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) 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.

Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia or ‘snail fever’, is a disease caused by parasites (worms called schistosomes) carried by freshwater snails.

Female genital schistosomiasis (FGS) is a disease manifestation of schistosomiasis caused by Schistosoma haematobium, a waterborne parasite that affects the urinary and genital tract of infected individuals.

A blue plastic bowl containing whole and half tablets of praziqantel and mebendazole sits on green and blue patterned fabric. Tubs of the medication are just visible.

Soil-transmitted helminthiases (STH) are infections caused by intestinal parasites. These infections are among the most common worldwide, and affect the poorest and most marginalised communities.

Parasitic worm infections include schistosomiasis and intestinal worm infections.