Lymphatic filariasis is one of the NTDs the new WHO initiative focuses on.<br/>Photo:© Centre for Neglected Tropical Diseases
Lymphatic filariasis is one of the NTDs the new WHO initiative focuses on.
Photo:© Centre for Neglected Tropical Diseases

29.03.2016

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Around 1.5 billion people worldwide are affected by the so-called neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) – illnesses that the poorest of the poor usually suffer from and that could easily be defeated – if there was enough funding and political will to do so. In May this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) will be launching an initiative to focus the national combating strategies addressing individual NTDs pursued by the countries affected.

According to the WHO definition of the term, “neglected tropical diseases” refers to a group of 17 communicable diseases that occur in 149 tropical and subtropical countries and  “mainly affect populations living in poverty, without adequate sanitation and in close contact with infectious vectors and domestic animals and livestock”. These include well-known diseases such as dengue, sleeping sickness and leprosy – but also less familiar ones like river blindness (onchocerciasis) and lymphatic filariasis. These latter ones are at the focus of the WHO initiative ESPEN – the Expanded Special Project for the Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases.

“We want to reach 145 million people in 26 countries by 2016,” said Magda Robalo, Director of the Communicable Diseases Cluster (CDS) at the WHO’s Regional Office for Africa, explaining the ambitious goal of the initiative, which is to run for five years, at at an event in March held by the German network against neglected tropical diseases in Berlin.

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