One year on and accelerating work to overcome neglected tropical diseases
Provisional figures show that of the estimated 32 million people who were treated for schistosomiasis worldwide in 2010, 28 million were in sub-Saharan Africa where the disease is widely distributed. Results of recent surveys conducted in Morocco using the most sensitive diagnostic techniques, show that none of the 2300 children aged under 16 years from formerly endemic areas had been re-exposed to the infection, confirming the interruption of transmission of urogenital schistosomiasis. No screened vector snails harboured the parasite.
We are now on the verge of eradicating dracunculiasis, the first parasitic disease to be wiped out. To bolster the final phases of eradication, and despite the global financial crisis, on 5 October 2011 the Government of the United Kingdom announced a challenge grant of UK£ 20 million (approximately US$ 32 million) to enable The Carter Center and WHO to finish the job. This pledge is widely expected to encourage other donors to come forward and match the additional funding required. Under current conditions, WHO and The Carter Center estimate that at least USD$ 70 million is needed to achieve complete interruption of transmission by 2015 in the four countries where cases are still occurring. A further mandatory period of three years is needed from the time the last country interrupts transmission to certify eradication.
Significant progress has been made for other neglected tropical diseases for which active surveillance and individualized treatment are required. The introduction of combination antibiotic therapy has reduced by about 30% the need for surgery for people affected by Buruli ulcer.
Systematic screening and treatment of at-risk populations have reduced cases of human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) to their lowest level in 50 years. In 2010, there were 7139 new cases, compared with 9878 cases in 2009, a decrease of 28% in just one year.