NTDs Prey on the Poor

A new WHO plan to combat 20 neglected diseases that plague 1.7 billion people in low-resource countries seeks to rally attention for NTDs even as COVID-19 threatens to roll back progress, Thomson Reuters Foundation reports.

Yesterday’s public launch of the 10-year road map marks the second annual World NTD Day tomorrow, January 30.

A diverse batch of diseases—leprosy, elephantiasis, intestinal worms, rabies—fall under the NTD umbrella. “The one thing they have in common is that they disproportionately affect the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world,” writes Mwele Malecela, WHO’s NTD director, in a companion commentary.   

Like COVID, they also exacerbate structural inequalities in health care.
“If these diseases impacted high-income countries, there would be more research into them,” writes Christos Christou, international president of Médecins Sans Frontières, in a report chronicling MSF’s efforts. Policymakers routinely ignore NTDs; as a result, “there are no vaccines, diagnostic tools are limited, and treatments are often unavailable or unaffordable,” for many of these diseases.


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