Neglected tropical diseases

WHO’s Executive Board recommends resolution on all 17 neglected tropical diseases

Geneva | 29 January 2013

The 132nd Executive Board of the World Health Organization (WHO), meeting in Geneva, Switzerland today recommended to the 66th Health Assembly a resolution on all 17 neglected tropical diseases.

The move now clears the way for its adoption by the World Health Assembly – the decision-making body of WHO - when it convenes in Geneva, Switzerland in May 2013.

WHO Director-General and President of the 132nd Executive Board
WHO

The Executive Board resolution, voted with amendments, urges Member States to ensure country ownership of prevention, control, elimination and eradication programmes; expansion and implementation of interventions and advocate for predictable, long-term international financing to finance activities related to control, capacity strengthening and achieve the roadmap targets.

Eradication of dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease) is targeted by 2015 and that of yaws by 2020. The roadmap also sets six targets for the elimination of five neglected tropical diseases by 2015 and a further 10 elimination targets are set for 2020 either globally or in selected geographical areas for nine neglected tropical diseases.

Targets are also set for intensified control of dengue, Buruli ulcer, cutaneous leishmaniasis, selected zoonoses and helminthiases.

This recommendation on a comprehensive resolution on all 17 neglected tropical diseases is a historic step in accelerating the fight against these diseases of poverty.” said Dr Lorenzo Savioli, Director of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases. “It stands as evidence to the growing commitment of Member States and public and private partners in reaching targets outlined in the 2012 WHO roadmap and further elaborated in the recently launched 2nd WHO report on neglected tropical diseases.

Background

Approaches to overcoming what are now termed neglected tropical diseases remained disease specific until 2005, when WHO and its partners analysed the evidence and best practices and recommended at a strategic and technical meeting in Berlin in April 2005 that a common, integrated approach be used for their prevention and control.

Over the years, WHO has accumulated evidence to show that the burden caused by many of these diseases, which affect more than 1.4 billion people worldwide, can be effectively controlled and, in some cases, eliminated or even eradicated.

Turning point

The meeting of WHO’s global partners on neglected tropical diseases in Geneva, Switzerland in 2007 marked a turning point. It resulted in increased commitment and engagement from Member States in which these diseases were endemic and the pharmaceutical industry, and in expanded collaboration among partners.

As a consequence, countries endemic for neglected tropical diseases and their partners have been enabled to increase steadily access to and coverage with treatment programmes mostly using essential medicines donated on a large scale.

First WHO Report on neglected tropical diseases

In October 2010, WHO published its first report on neglected tropical diseases, highlighting their adverse impacts on health and the successes of Member States through collaboration with the private sector and other partners.

These initial successes have led to increased donations of essential medicines by industry, enabling countries to scale up interventions.

WHO roadmap and the London Declaration

In January 2012, WHO published a roadmap laying out the vision for the prevention, control, elimination and eradication of neglected tropical diseases. Inspired by this roadmap, a community of partners, comprising heads of global health organizations, donors, politicians and pharmaceutical industry leaders, endorsed the London Declaration at a meeting in London, United Kingdom, committing them to:

  • sustain, expand and extend programmes that ensure the necessary supply of medicines and other interventions;
  • advance research and development through partnerships and provision of funding to find next-generation treatments and interventions;
  • enhance collaboration and coordination at national and international levels;
  • enable adequate funding with countries endemic for the neglected tropical diseases to implement programmes necessary to achieve these goals, supported by strong and committed health systems at the national level; and,
  • provide technical support, tools and resources to countries endemic for these diseases to evaluate and monitor those programmes.

As both the WHO’s roadmap and the London declaration make clear, prevention and control of neglected tropical diseases form an integral part of universal health coverage, which prioritizes the public health needs of poor people and delivers interventions through appropriate technology at sustainable cost.

Universal coverage for prevention and control interventions against neglected tropical diseases depends critically on the existence of stronger, more efficient health systems, access to essential medicines of assured quality at affordable prices, and a well-trained and motivated workforce, as well as the involvement of other sectors including finance, education, agriculture and livestock, water supply, environment and management.

First technical briefing

In May 2012, during the Sixty-fifth World Health Assembly a technical briefing on neglected tropical diseases, chaired by the Assembly’s President, highlighted the relevance and priority that communities endemic for those diseases give to their prevention, control, elimination and eradication.

Member States participating in this briefing called for a draft resolution on neglected tropical diseases to be submitted to the Sixty-sixth World Health Assembly for consideration.

Second WHO report on neglected tropical diseases

On 16 January 2013, WHO launched its second report on neglected tropical diseases at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Sustaining the drive to overcome the global impact of neglected tropical diseases outlines unprecedented progress made since 2010 through renewed momentum which has shifted the world closer to eliminating many of these conditions.

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