By G9ija

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has unveiled a new road map to tackle 20 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) affecting more than a billion people globally.

The road map is an ambitious target that moves to eradicate dracunculiasis (guinea worm) and yaws as well as ensure a 90 percent reduction in the need for treatment for NTDs by 2030.

With theme: ‘Ending the neglect to attain the Sustainable Development Goals: a road map for neglected tropical diseases 2021–2030,’ and endorsed by the World Health Assembly (WHA 73(33)) in November 2020, it aims to accelerate programmatic action and renew momentum by proposing concrete actions focused on integrated platforms for delivery of interventions, and thereby improve programme cost– effectiveness and coverage.

The global health body made this known in a statement.

It noted that the road map, developed through a wide consultative process involving countries, partners, stakeholders, the scientific community and academia, provides opportunities to evaluate, assess and adjust programmatic actions as and when needed over the next decade, by setting clear targets and milestones.

It further revealed that in addition to driving greater ownership by national and local governments, including communities, the overarching 2030 global targets are: reduce by 90 percent the number of people requiring treatment for NTDs, at least 100 countries to have eliminated at least one NTD, eradicate two diseases (dracunculiasis and yaws), and reduce by 75 percent the disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) related to NTD.

Additionally, the road map will track 10 cross-cutting targets and disease specific targets that include a reduction by more than 75 percent in the number of deaths from vector-borne NTDs such as dengue, 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.

Speaking on the novel and innovative approach, the Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, stated: “If we are to end the scourge of neglected tropical diseases, we urgently need to do things differently. 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.”

The road map is designed to address critical gaps across multiple diseases by integrating and mainstreaming approaches and actions within national health systems, and across sectors.

Also speaking, the Director, WHO Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases, Dr Mwelecele Ntuli Malecela, stated: “At its core, this road map aims to put people first. It involves working across sectors in delivering programmes for all the 20 NTDs and promote equity and country ownership.

“To do so, programmes have to be sustainable with measurable outcomes, backed by adequate domestic financing.”