The World Health Organization (WHO) urges affected countries to scale up their investment in tackling 17 neglected tropical diseases in order to improve the health and well-being of more than 1.5 billion people.
This investment would represent as little as 0.1 percent of current domestic expenditure on health in affected low and middle income countries for the period 2015-2030.
Neglected tropical diseases cause blindness, disfigurement, permanent disability and death, particularly among the poor. WHO’s new report, “Investing to Overcome the Impact of Neglected Tropical Diseases”, outlines an investment case and essential package of interventions for these diseases.
“Increased investments by national governments can alleviate human misery, distribute economic gains more evenly and free masses of people long trapped in poverty,” says WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan.
Unfortunately, with the current “epidemic” of terrorist activity amongst the poorer nations in Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, this concept of forward thinking does not have much chance of being implemented. Boko Haram is not renowned for worrying about social welfare.
Listed below is a short description of the 17 neglected tropical diseases, also accessible at http://www.who.int/neglected_diseases/diseases/summary/en/
Dengue: A mosquito-borne infection causing flu-like illness that may develop into severe dengue and cause lethal complications.
Rabies: A preventable viral disease transmitted to humans through the bites of infected dogs that is invariably fatal once symptoms develop.
Trachoma: A chlamydial infection transmitted through direct contact with infectious eye or nasal discharge, or through indirect contact with unsafe living conditions and hygiene practices, which left untreated causes irreversible corneal opacities and blindness.
Buruli ulcer: A debilitating mycobacterial skin infection causing severe destruction of the skin, bone and soft tissue.
Yaws: A chronic bacterial infection affecting mainly the skin and bone.
Leprosy: A complex disease caused by infection mainly of the skin, peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and eyes.
Chagas disease: A life-threatening illness transmitted to humans through contact with vector insects (triatomine bugs), ingestion of contaminated food, infected blood transfusions, congenital transmission, organ transplantation or laboratory accidents.
Human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness): A parasitic infection spread by the bites of tsetse flies that is almost 100 percent fatal without prompt diagnosis and treatment to prevent the parasites invading the central nervous system.
Leishmaniases: Disease transmitted through the bites of infected female sandflies that in its most severe (visceral) form attacks the internal organs and in its most prevalent (cutaneous) form causes facial ulcers, disfiguring scars and disability.
Taeniasis and neurocysticercosis: An infection caused by adult tapeworms in human intestines. Cysticercosis results when humans ingest tapeworm eggs that develop as larvae in tissues.
Dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease): A nematode infection transmitted exclusively by drinking-water contaminated with parasite-infected water fleas.
Echinococcosis: Infection caused by the larval stages of tapeworms forming pathogenic cysts in humans and transmitted when ingesting eggs most commonly shed in feces of dogs and wild animals.
Foodborne trematodiases: Infection acquired by consuming fish, vegetables and crustaceans contaminated with larval parasites. Clonorchiasis, opisthorchiasis and fascioliasis are the main diseases.
Lymphatic filariasis: Infection transmitted by mosquitoes causing abnormal enlargement of limbs and genitals from adult worms inhabiting and reproducing in the lymphatic system.
Onchocerciasis (river blindness): Infection transmitted by the bite of infected black flies causing severe itching and eye lesions as the adult worm produces larvae and leading to visual impairment and permanent blindness.
Schistosomiasis: Trematode infections transmitted when larval forms released by freshwater snails penetrate human skin during contact with infested water.
Soil-transmitted helminthiases: Nematode infections transmitted through soil contaminated by human feces causing anemia, vitamin A deficiency, stunted growth, malnutrition, intestinal obstruction and impaired development.
In 2013, Colombia became the first country where WHO verified the elimination of river blindness (onchocerciasis), followed by Ecuador in 2014.
Bangladesh and Nepal are poised to eliminate visceral leishmaniasis as a public-health problem by the end of 2015.
And Dengue and Rabies can be found in Thailand!
The number of new cases of sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis) has dropped to fewer than 10,000 annually and this for the first time in 30 years with 6 314 cases reported in 2013.
In 2009 approximately 30 percent of children in need of preventive treatment for soil-transmitted helminthiases were receiving it. Reaching 50 percent of children with this treatment by end 2015 is achievable.