News / Health

A Call to Wipe Out Neglected Tropical Diseases

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates speaks at the 'Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases' conference at the Royal College of Physicians, in London, January 30, 2012.
Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates speaks at the 'Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases' conference at the Royal College of Physicians, in London, January 30, 2012.
Vidushi Sinha

A global initiative to control or eradicate 10 neglected tropical diseases within the decade was officially launched this week in London.  Experts say the initiative is the largest coordinated effort ever undertaken to combat diseases - including sleeping sickness and guinea worm - that affect more than a billion people around the world. Tropical disease experts shared their thoughts with VOA about what impact the initiative is likely to have.

In an unprecedented show of unity, leaders of government, public and private health groups and major drug companies have pledged to work closely to combat neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs. These debilitating infections affect 1.4 billion people in the world’s poorest countries. The so-called London Declaration calls for the eradication and elimination of 10 of these tropical illnesses by the year 2020.

The World Health Organization says NTDs cost billions of dollars in lost productivity. But the maladies have been largely overlooked by medical researchers because they affect relatively small and mostly poor populations.

Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director General, called the initiative a roadmap for an ambitious but achievable journey.

“Just think of the prospect of freeing millions of people - most of them are children and women - so that they could have a healthy and productive life. On that we need your support. Come with us. This is going to be a long journey but we have [taken] a very good first step,” said Chan.

With funds from various partners totaling $785 million, the project aims to eliminate many ancient scourges - such as leprosy, sleeping sickness, lymphatic filariasis, blinding trachoma, and guinea worm.

Microsoft chairman and philanthropist Bill Gates pledged $363 million through his namesake foundation. He called the London Declaration 'a milestone event.'

“We have very ambitious goals that we have set. For example, for guinea worm we have got that 2015 eradication so we have a nice little competition going on between polio and guinea worm to see which would get to be the second disease eradicated and which will get to be the third disease eradicated, and the sooner the better for both of those,” said Gates.

To speed the search for new drugs to fight the diseases, 13 drug companies have for the first time agreed to share their libraries of experimental compounds. And they also have agreed to donate and deliver billions of doses of drugs every year to aid the poorest of the poor, in the most remote corners of the world.

Dr. Mwele Malacela is director-general of Tanzania’s National Institute of Medical Research in Dar es Salaam.

She said people in her country have been suffering because drug delivery always has been a challenge, but the London pledges give her hope.

“Even when we have the donations, funding the delivery of the drugs has been a major problem. Now that we hear that there is more funding in the delivery side, we feel that we will be in a better position,” said Malacela.

There have been many initiatives against NTDs, although on a small scale. Dr. Neeraj Mistry, Managing Director of Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, said they were not very effective because access to drugs was limited.

“It's only now that with raised awareness and increased commitments from drug companies, as well as foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the US and UK government, that we can actually take the response to NTDs to scale - which means that we can treat more communities and more people,” said Mistry.

Experts hope that by decade's end, the focus this initiative brings to neglected tropical diseases will mean they will no longer have to be called “neglected.”

You May Like

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Competing Claims of Responsibility for Mali Hotel Attack

Malian authorities ask public for help in identifying gunmen killed in attack, amid conflicting claims of responsibility from multiple jihadist groups active in the country

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs