New Delhi: The world marked World Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) Day on January 30, with the aim of creating better awareness of the devastating impact of NTDs on the poorest populations around the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of 20 conditions, which include Guinea worm, Chikungunya, Dengue, Kala Azar (Visceral Leishmaniasis), and Elephantiasis (Lymphatic Filariasis), among others, and India is home to about 12 NTDs.
With the objective of symbolising global unity in combating the NTDs, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the National Center for Vector Borne Diseases Control (NCVBD) illuminated the iconic New Delhi Railway Station in purple and orange hues. The initiative was taken to raise awareness about NTDs and underscore the nation’s commitment to their elimination.
Joining the initiative, Rajiv Manjhi, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, lauded the country’s efforts in combating the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDS) and emphasised the nation’s collaboration with global partners to achieve the shared goal of eliminating these conditions. The official said,
The illumination is more than just a visual spectacle, as it signifies India’s resolve to collaborate with global forces and advance towards the global goal of eliminating NTDs. In an endeavour to move towards the elimination of these often-overlooked diseases, India announced last year, the reclassification of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) as ‘Prioritised’ Tropical Diseases (PTDs), moving away from the term ‘Neglected’ Tropical Diseases. Thus, as we continue our fight against these diseases, it is important to sensitise all community members about these diseases and seek support of one and all to eliminate all the 11-12 NTDs from the country.
Dr. Tanu Jain, Director, and Dr. Chhavi Pant Joshi, Joint Director, National Center for Vector Borne Diseases Control (NCVBD), reiterated India’s commitment to eliminating NTDs and highlighted ongoing initiatives aimed at addressing NTDs.
Echoing the call to action for Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis, Dr. Tanu Jain said,
The elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) has consistently been a priority for the country. Of these, Lymphatic Filariasis, commonly known as Haathi Paon, is an incurable but preventable disease, caused by mosquito bites. The transmission of this disease can be stopped by the consumption of preventive medicines given during the Sarwajan Dawa Sevan (Mass Drug Administration, MDA). The centre provides free-of-cost medicines in endemic states during MDA rounds twice a year, on February 10 and August 10. However, this disease cannot be eliminated without the active participation of the community. Therefore, I urge you all to consume the medicines given by health workers during these rounds.
Prevalence of Neglected Tropical Diseases In India And Efforts Towards Its Elimination
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India bears a significant burden of 12 NTDs, including Lymphatic Filariasis, Visceral Leishmaniasis, Leprosy, Dengue, Rabies, and Soil-Transmitted Helminthiases, particularly impacting disadvantaged communities.
Talking about the prevalence of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in India, Dr Ganguly said,
At present, the total NTD-susceptible population in India is about 700 million, and 1.7 billion worldwide are affected. Out of the 20 NTDs, about 11–12 are prevalent in India, and the top three NTDs present in the country are Kala Azar, Elephantiasis, Leprosy.
The brighter side is that India has made significant progress in eliminating most of the NTDs and bringing some of them close to the elimination stage. Dr Ganguly detailed a few,
India eliminated Guinea worms in 2000, removing Leprosy as a public health threat in 2005, and bringing infective trachoma to the elimination stage in 2017. Speaking of Kala Azar, 90 per cent of the endemic districts in the country removed the disease as a threat. Now, there are only six districts left – four in Jharkhand and two in Bihar. So, this is huge progress that we have made. For Elephantiasis (Lymphatic Filariasis), one of the major NTDs prevalent in India, we have stopped the mass drug administration in about 133 districts.
Lymphatic Filariasis, another major NTD present in India also took a centre stage last year. Union Health Minister Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya launched an Enhanced Five-Pronged Strategy, in January 2023 and also reclassified NTDs as ‘Prioritized’ Tropical Diseases (PTDs), to underscore a strategic shift towards proactive measures in combating these diseases.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.