Britain increases support to battle against neglected tropical diseases

Barsaba Taglieri
Aprile 20, 2017

"The UK's support will protect over 200 million people from a future blighted by tropical disease and represents a huge leap towards ending this scourge".

The increased investment will protect over 200 million people from the pain and disfigurement caused by treatable tropical diseases, said worldwide development secretary Priti Patel. They kill about 170,000 people yearly and cause untold suffering for millions of men, women and children who are disfigured, disabled, stigmatized and unable to work their way out of poverty. Bill Gates pointed out that anyone who would be able to find out more about these awful tropical diseases would also know that specialists worked hard to combat them.

The UK's new aid minister has promised to keep the country's aid target of 0.7% of GDP, despite herself once campaigning for the Department for International Development (DfID) to be shut down.

Trachoma is no longer a public health problem in Mexico, Morocco and Oman. "The UK government understands that helping people help themselves is an honourable and cost-effective way to reduce poverty and increase hope".

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. It will also dedicate £88m to research projects developing drugs and diagnostics. Such diseases can cause anaemia, stunt children's growth and lead to cognitive impairments.

All three are "fundamentally preventive" and "deal with the root causes of the neglected tropical diseases", said Engels.

Besides celebrating 10 years of multi-stakeholder collaboration, the event will also mark the 5th anniversary of the WHO NTD Roadmap which established targets and milestones for the global control, elimination, and eradication of many of these diseases as well as that of the London Declaration.

"Guinea worm is close to the end, with only 25 cases past year - though the unrest in South Sudan is making this work harder".

The funding will go towards the distribution of tablets to treat diseases and research into new drugs. 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. "But even when people feel sick it's not like malaria that really puts you down, so people feel lethargy, they'll feel some abdominal pain". With trachoma, imagine if all your eyelashes were running inwards and every blink you had was agony.

However, the agency warns that further success will depend on whether more people have access to clean water and sanitation.

The effort has ramped up since a key meeting in London five years ago.

For some neglected tropical diseases, however, progress has been slower. "The scale of the suffering of the poorest people that will be avoided as a result of the delivery implementation treatments is vast".

The UK's commitment comes ahead of the World Health Organisation conference in Geneva where the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, governments, charities and the private sector will come together in an effort to wipe out neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

Neglected tropical diseases blind, maim, disfigure and debilitate hundreds of millions of people in urban slums and in the poorest parts of the world.

"It's really a story of wonderful progress", Mr Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft, said in Geneva as the World Health Organization issued a report on its campaign against tropical diseases.

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