Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) primarily occur in rural and poor urban areas of low-income and middle-income countries. They are defined as poverty-promoting through their stigmatising features and their impact on child health and education, pregnancy and worker productivity. Like malaria, NTDs perpetuate a cycle of disease and poverty in which the worsening of socioeconomic conditions of those suffering from often chronic disabilities as a result of NTDs contributes to poor living conditions which, in turn, cause the spread of infections. Some of the more well-known NTDs include trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, leprosy, schistosomiasis and dengue.
Despite the low cost of cures for some NTDs, the diseases are consistently underfunded and do not attract the same attention as other prominent diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria. However, ignoring them obstructs efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals as well as overall economic development.
NTDs are medically diverse and therefore vary in terms of treatability. However, many of the diseases are safe and cheap to treat. For example, the cost of treating a child for soil-transmitted helminths is much less than a dollar for a year. On the other hand, some NTDs are more difficult to treat – dengue, for example, has no specific drug to clear the viral infection so clinicians provide supportive treatment only.
Other diseases such as visceral leishmaniasis, Human African trypanosomiasis and Chagas disease as well as conditions such as Buruli ulcer are difficult to diagnose and treat and can cause death and severe disability.
Tackling NTDs therefore involves a mix of distributing current treatments, improving healthcare access for the most remote and vulnerable populations, and investing in research for new cures. It is also about raising awareness among those most affected and, where possible, empowering communities to take control of reducing their own risks from to these diseases. Progress has been made in reducing the incidence of NTDs and the associated stigma and morbidity, yet there is so much more that still needs to be done.
Click here to find out more about the different diseases
Find out about our position on NTDs here.
Visit here for the World Health Organization's page on NTDs.