More than half a billion treatments delivered in fight against NTDs

September 17, 2012 by Kerry Gallo

On September 19, more than 40 groups will be part of a landmark event in DC to celebrate progress in the global fight against NTDs.

WASHINGTON D.C. – The United States is pleased to join more than 40 nongovernmental organizations, academic institutions, global health and civil society organizations at an event to hail historic progress, celebrate champions, and underscore continuing challenges in the global fight against diseases affecting the world’s poorest and most marginal populations. Leveraging unprecedented donations of medicines by pharmaceutical companies, global neglected tropical disease (NTD) partnerships are supporting countries around the world to control and eliminate these diseases.  The special event will be held on Capitol Hill September 19, 2012 in Russell Senate Office Building 385 to recognize successes in the fight against NTDs.

With the support of the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) NTD Program, has supported countries to deliver more than half a billion NTD treatments in just six years, reaching cumulatively more than 250 million people in 20 countries.

NTDs are caused by a range of worms, bacteria and parasites with hard-to-pronounce names such as schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis. They disproportionately impact poor and rural populations who lack access to safe water, adequate sanitation, and health care. These diseases can kill and frequently impair, blind, or disfigure those they infect. NTDs devastate families and communities by hindering children’s mental and physical development, reducing school performance and attendance, and limiting economic productivity in adults who become blind or too sick to work, thereby keeping families in a continuous cycle of poverty. Due to their primary role as caretakers of children, women are more commonly affected than men, suffering from NTDs like trachoma which causes pain and blindness during the most productive years of life. And certain NTDs, like Chagas disease and sleeping sickness, are potentially fatal without treatment.

Globally, up to 1.2 billion people are estimated to be infected with soil-transmitted helminths (STH), one of the NTDs. These worms thrive where the soil is warm and humid and where sanitation is inadequate. As a result, this disease disproportionately affects the poor in tropical and sub-tropical countries. Infection with STH causes abdominal pain and distension, intestinal obstruction, iron-deficiency anemia, increased susceptibility to other serious infections, stunted growth and impaired cognitive development in children. Ultimately, these conditions may have socio-economic consequences such as poor school performance in children, which in turn leads to decreased labor productivity when these children become adults.

Global partnerships have been instrumental to the efforts of governments and others who work together to create new medicines, get the drugs to the communities that need them, and enlist local support to ensure appropriateness of proposed interventions. Our work is making a large-scale, cost-effective contribution to the global effort to reduce the burden of NTDs.

All partners are committed to sustaining or expanding existing drug donation programs; accelerating research and development of new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics; and strengthening drug distribution and implementation programs in disease-endemic countries. 

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USAID extends help from the American people to achieve results for the poorest and most vulnerable around the world. That assistance does not represent a Democratic value or a Republican value, but an American value; as beneficiaries of peace and prosperity, Americans have a responsibility to assist those less fortunate so we see the day when our assistance is no longer necessary.

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Children Without Worms (CWW) is a partnership between Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, and the Task Force for Global Health to support the treatment and prevention of infection with soil-transmitted helminths (STH), commonly known as intestinal worms. CWW envisions the world's children free of STH so they can grow, play, learn and enrich their communities. To achieve this vision, CWW works with partners around the world, including the World Health Organization, government ministries of health and education, and non-governmental organizations to provide donated albendazole and mebendazole to treat at-risk children. CWW also achieves its vision by working with partners to provide technical support to national programs to advocate for and implement strategies to prevent STH infection. These strategies include increasing access to water and sanitation facilities and providing hygiene education.