USAID-Funded Neglected Tropical Disease Control Program Treats More Than 14 Million People During First Year 4 January 2008
The NTD Control Program is being implemented by RTI International in collaboration with Liverpool Associates in Tropical Health, the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative at Imperial College London, International Trachoma Initiative, Malaria Consortium, IMA World Health, and Helen Keller International. The program represents one of the first global efforts to integrate existing disease-specific treatment programs to expand care for five neglected tropical diseases to millions of the world's poorest people.
The diseases -- lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, trachoma, onchocerciasis, and soil-transmitted helminths -- are largely unknown in developed nations, but cause severe disability, suffering and social and economic marginalization in less-developed regions of the world. At least 1 billion people -- one-sixth of the world's population -- suffer from one or more neglected tropical diseases.
The USAID-funded program seeks to provide treatments of safe and effective drugs globally to about 40 million people over five years, targeting countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America that have a high prevalence of the targeted diseases and have recognized them as a national health priority. To achieve this target in the most cost-efficient way, the program is helping ministries of health to build on the successes of their past disease-specific treatment programs by implementing an innovative integrated approach to combating these serious diseases.
During 2007, its first year of operations, the program distributed over 36 million treatments to more than 14 million people in four countries -- Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, and Niger. More than 80 percent of the eligible population targeted for treatment in those countries received more than $400 million worth of donated medicines from Merck, GSK, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer. Eighty percent of the program's funds have been used to support the delivery of these essential drugs to at-risk populations.
The program is also currently treating people in an additional 38 districts in Uganda (about 10 million people), and during 2008 will be expanded to include Haiti, Southern Sudan and Sierra Leone.
"The Neglected Tropical Diseases Control Program is a collaborative effort among all program partners -- ministries of health and other local organizations, USAID, the pharmaceutical industry, WHO, and the RTI-led team," said Jean Shaikh, the program director at RTI International. "Together, we're building on the success of existing programs and enhancing their effectiveness and efficiency by integrating treatment, monitoring and evaluation programs. In this way, USAID's NTD Control Program is making a large-scale and very cost-effective contribution to the global effort to reduce, and potentially eliminate, these debilitating diseases."
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