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Open Access Highly Accessed Debate

Control of neglected tropical diseases needs a long-term commitment

Yaobi Zhang1*, Chad MacArthur2, Likezo Mubila3 and Shawn Baker1

Author Affiliations

1 Helen Keller International, Regional Office for Africa, Dakar, Senegal

2 Helen Keller International, Headquarters, New York, the USA

3 World Health Organization, Regional Office for Africa, Harare, Zimbabwe

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BMC Medicine 2010, 8:67  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-8-67

Published: 29 October 2010

Abstract

Background

Neglected tropical diseases are widespread, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, affecting over 2 billion individuals. Control of these diseases has gathered pace in recent years, with increased levels of funding from a number of governmental or non-governmental donors. Focus has currently been on five major 'tool-ready' neglected tropical diseases (lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis and trachoma), using a package of integrated drug delivery according to the World Health Organization guidelines for preventive chemotherapy.

Discussion

Success in controlling these neglected tropical diseases has been achieved in a number of countries in recent history. Experience from these successes suggests that long-term sustainable control of these diseases requires: (1) a long-term commitment from a wider range of donors and from governments of endemic countries; (2) close partnerships of donors, World Health Organization, pharmaceutical industries, governments of endemic countries, communities, and non-governmental developmental organisations; (3) concerted action from more donor countries to provide the necessary funds, and from the endemic countries to work together to prevent cross-border disease transmission; (4) comprehensive control measures for certain diseases; and (5) strengthened primary healthcare systems as platforms for the national control programmes and capacity building through implementation of the programmes.

Conclusions

The current level of funding for the control of neglected tropical diseases has never been seen before, but it is still not enough to scale up to the 2 billion people in all endemic countries. While more donors are sought, the stakeholders must work in a coordinated and harmonised way to identify the priority areas and the best delivery approaches to use the current funds to the maximum effect. Case management and other necessary control measures should be supported through the current major funding streams in order to achieve the objectives of the control of these diseases. For a long-term and sustainable effort, control of neglected tropical diseases should also be integrated into national primary healthcare systems.