New Delhi: World Health Organization (WHO) defines ‘Neglected tropical diseases’ (NTDs) as a diverse group of 20 conditions that are mainly prevalent in tropical areas, where they mostly affect impoverished communities and disproportionately affect women and children. WHO states that although these diseases are preventable and treatable but their intricate interrelationships with poverty and ecological systems – continue to cause devastating health, social and economic consequences to more than one billion people.
Explaining NTDs, Dr. Neeraj Dhingra, Former Director, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) and Member, WHO Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on NTDs said,
The Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) consist of 20 conditions that are listed by the World Health Organization (WHO). These diseases are mostly prevalent in tropical areas, where the climate remains warm and humid. Some of the NTDs include Kala Azar (commonly known as “Black Fever” and scientifically as “Visceral Leishmaniasis”), Lymphatic Filariasis (commonly known as “Elephantiasis”), Dengue, Chikungunya, Scabies, snake bites, etc. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 1.7 billion people globally need prevention and treatment for at least one of the NTDs. Besides, NTDs have so far caused 2 lakh deaths globally, and around 19 million disability-adjusted life years are lost every year to NTDs.
The Formation Of Neglected Tropical Diseases Day
On 31 May 2021, the World Health Assembly (WHA) recognised January 30 as World Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Day. It was done to create better awareness on the devastating impact of NTDs on the poorest populations around the world. Not just that, this day is also an opportunity to mobilise support for the control, elimination and eradication of these diseases.
Facts About NTDs And How It Is Impacting The World
According to the official site of World Neglected Tropical Disease Day, 1 in 5 people worldwide are affected by NTDs. It also states that 35% of all the NTD burden is in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Moreover, it also adds that so far 47 countries have eliminated an NTD, showing progress is possible. It states that in 2020, 600 million fewer people required interventions against NTDs than in 2010.
However, a lack of resources has been seen as a significant barrier to the control, elimination, and eradication of NTDs around the world. During COVID-19, this challenge has only been intensified as there have been severe delays and disruption to NTD programmes.
India’s Status In Controlling NTDs
Based on 2020 data, World Health Organisation (WHO) states that half of the population in India has been affected by one of the NTDs. It adds, India has the highest burden in the world for Elephantiasis (Lymphatic Filariasis), with around 457 million people requiring preventive chemotherapy. WHO also adds that India has highest burden for intestinal worms (soil-transmitted helminths) as well with around 436 million children requiring preventive therapy.
However, all is not that bad. WHO also states that the WHO South-East Asia Region has made remarkable strides in its quest to eliminate neglected tropical diseases. It adds, India was the first country to end the epidemic of Yaws in 2015. It states India also met national elimination targets for Leprosy in 2005, and has had made progress in elimination of Kala-Azar and Lymphatic Filariasis in endemic areas.
Highlighting more about India’s stand for NTDs, Dr. Bhupendra Tripathi, Country Lead for Elimination Programs (Neglected Tropical Diseases), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said,
India has done very well in treating and eradicating some other NTDs, for example, the Guinea worm disease. Now we have a challenge of Kala Azar . We have four states, 54 districts and 633 blocks which are endemic to Kala Azar. Out of them, only one block was above the elimination target, so, in a way we are more than 99 per cent successful in eradicating it as a public health problem and with a vast amount of work done by the Indian government, we are hopeful that in 2023, we will eradicate Kala Azar completely.
Roadmap For Elimination Of NTDs
The WHO has laid down overarching global targets for eliminating NTDs till 2030, which are also in line with the Sustainable Development Goals:
• 90% fewer people should require interventions against NTDs
• 75% fewer NTD-related DALYs (Disability-adjusted life years)
• 100 countries need to eliminate at least 1 NTD
• Eradication of 2 NTDs – Dracunculiasis and Yaws
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. 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 wake of the current 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 wellbeing, 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.