If neglected tropical diseases don’t get the attention they deserve, the achievement of health equity is unattainable

A mother and daughter are safe at their home as a lockdown is conducted by COVID-19 Ambohimiadana village in Madagascar. Credit: Viviane Rakotoarivony/End Fund/SCI Foundation

Neglected tropical illnesses (NTDs) can negatively impact the health and prospects of the poorest populations across the globe. In the past 10 years, unprecedented progress has been made by nations as well as partners from different sectors and communities who are pushing for increased funding and action to fight these diseases.

The first time, on 31 January the globe celebrates World NTD Day as a recognized UN International Day of Awareness. It is not just an important event in and of itself, but also helps to emphasize the worldwide community’s determination to eradicate and stop the spread of NTDs. It also demonstrates the values of health equity and solidarity.

Health equity with the NTD lens

Health equity is not easy to achieve. However, when health disparities between groups of individuals are evident, it is essential to examine these distinctions and look attentively at the different aspects of health that are at play, including social, economic, and environmental aspects.

NTDs, such as Schistosomiasis are a great illustration of the manner health inequities are created. Because they are transmissible diseases caused by the social and environmental conditions that people are living in, like poor quality housing, water supply sanitation, health care and housing, and political instability. Because NTDs frequently cause chronic diseases, disability as well as stigmatisation continue to perpetuate the vicious cycle of health problems and poverty. The tendency of NTDs to impact marginalized groups, and to increase poverty, has resulted in the financial and political neglect of these ailments which led to the creation of the term”non-traumatic diseases.

Furthermore to this, socio-cultural influences that are commonly related to gender roles, influence NTDs in different ways and may result in social stigma and exclusion, which can further exacerbate the problem and highlighting the inequity.

The progress made on NTDs to date

In the past, these diseases were overlooked in favour of more urgent (or more popular) global health concerns, and were not included in the health agenda of the world and attracted only a small amount of research and development based on commercialization.

Sibket Deneke washes a motorbike using water collected by wading in the Shapa River in Ethiopia, in which freshwater snails that carry the parasite responsible for schistosomiasis may be observed. Credit: Indrias G. Kassaye/SCI Foundation

In the last decade In the past decade, significant efforts have been taken to rectify this neglect in the wake of the release of the London Declaration driving important funding, international attention and a huge amount of donated medications. Two road maps for global NTDs published from the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2012 and 2021 have laid out the key strategies for controlling, eliminating and eliminating disease and will be carried out by a vibrant worldwide community of practitioners. However, achieving equality in health remains a major issue, particularly with the continuing global pandemic and climate changes. The uncertain funding environment globally and the stretched budgets of national governments could impede the progress made to date.

Country ownership and collaboration are essential to halting the deprivation

In the 2021-30 NTD road map, placing national ownership at the core of NTD programs, and accelerating the use of cross-cutting methods are crucial to halting NTDs. Collaboration across different sectors, like dealing with sanitation, water as well as health ( WASH) issues, and looking at an one health strategy, will help strengthen health systems.

As an organization that is based in the United States, we believe that implementing the measures set out in the road map will not just bring about faster progress in beating NTDs and improve health equity through the elimination of diseases. World NTD Day therefore provides an opportunity for everyone around the world to recognize its role and responsibilities in ensuring equity and ensure there is no one left without a chance.

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