By Sharon Atieno

With the previous plan to end Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) reaching its deadline and many targets still unachieved, the World Health Organization (WHO) has set new targets for the decade that will help tackle these diseases.

The plan dubbed, Ending the neglect to attain the Sustainable Development Goals: a road map for neglected tropical diseases 2021–2030 targets the eradication of guinea worms and yaws as well as a 90% reduction in the need for treatment for NTDs.

The 10-year plan which was endorsed at the World Health Assembly (WHA) in November 2020 also seeks to eliminate at least one NTD in not less than a 100 countries and a 75% decrease in the disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) related to NTDs.

Additionally, the road map will track 10 cross cutting targets and disease specific targets that include a reduction by more than 75% in the number of deaths from vector-borne NTDs such as leishmaniasis and others, promote full access to basic water supply, sanitation and hygiene in areas endemic for NTDs and achieve greater improvement in collecting and reporting NTD data disaggregated by gender.

In a statement, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General called for the need to do things differently in order to end the scourge of NTDs.

“This means injecting new energy into our efforts and working together in new ways to get prevention and treatment for all these diseases, to everyone who needs it,” he said.

Dr Mwelecele Ntuli Malecela, Director, WHO Department of Control of NTD noted that the roadmap is people-centered and involves working across sectors in delivering programmes for all the 20 NTDs and promoting equity and country ownership.

She added that to achieve this, the programmes had to be sustainable with measurable outcomes , backed by adequate domestic financing.

In the past decade, gains made resulted in 600 million fewer people at risk of NTDs than a decade ago and with 42 countries eliminating at least one NTD, including some defeating multiple NTDs.
Furthermore, global programmes treated more than 1 billion people a year for 5 consecutive years between 2015 – 2019.

However, significant challenges remain, including climate change, conflict, emerging zoonotic and environmental health threats, as well as continued inequalities in access to healthcare services, adequate housing, safe water and sanitation. There are also major gaps in current intervention packages of diagnostics, treatment and service delivery models.