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

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid