Neglected tropical diseases

About us

The Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases coordinates and supports policies and strategies to enhance global access to interventions for the prevention, control, elimination and eradication of neglected tropical diseases, including some zoonotic diseases.

What do we do

Consistent with World Health Assembly resolutions and in line with WHO’s roadmap for neglected tropical diseases [pdf 1.2Mb], we support Member States to overcome the global impact of these diseases by accelerating access to prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care interventions for all those in need.

Neglected tropical diseases are a medically diverse group of infections caused by a variety of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, protozoa and helminths. The 17 neglected tropical diseases prioritized by WHO affect more than 1 billion people worldwide and are endemic in 149 countries.

Why we work

Neglected tropical diseases cause immense human suffering and death. They pose a devastating obstacle to healthand remain a serious impediment to poverty reduction and overall socioeconomic development.

How we improve access to health

Universal coverage against neglected tropical diseases depends to a large extent on enhanced access to free essential medicines and on stronger, well-planned, financially sound and efficient health systems.

Through a well-trained and motivated work force at country level, we aim to prioritize the public health needs of poor and marginalized populations. We provide technical and strategic guidance in key areas, coordinate the distribution of donated medicines, promote WHO’s role in partnership involvement, strengthen capacity in countries endemic for these diseases, and leverage the contribution of stakeholders to the elimination and eradication of neglected tropical diseases.

We deliver interventions through appropriate technology at sustainable cost and with the help of international partners we support Member States in the coordination and integration of national control programmes with the cooperation of sectors such as education, agriculture and veterinary public health.

Our approach

Our approach to tackling neglected tropical diseases builds on five public-health strategies:

  • preventive chemotherapy – the large-scale delivery of free and safe, single-dose, quality-assured medicines, either alone or in combination, at regular intervals to treat selected diseases;
  • innovative and intensified disease management – the management of diseases that are difficult to diagnose and treat and which can, in most cases, trigger severe clinical manifestations and complications;
  • vector control and pesticide management – the safe and judicious management of public-health pesticides to achieve vector control through integrated vector management;
  • safe drinking-water, basic sanitation and hygiene services, and education – the prioritization of improved sanitation combined with delivering preventive chemotherapy and health education to sustain reductions in prevalence of many of these diseases;
  • zoonotic disease management – the application of veterinary sciences and interventions to protect and improve human health (also referred to as veterinary public-health).

Although one approach may predominate for the control of a specific disease or group of diseases, effective control results when several approaches are combined and delivered locally.

Of the 17 neglected tropical diseases, two are targeted for eradication – dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease) and yaws and four for elimination (blinding trachoma, human African trypanosomiasis, leprosy and lymphatic filariasis).

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News highlights

27 August 2015 | Geneva
WHO and Novartis extend agreement to treat millions of leprosy patients with free medicines

27 August 2015 | Geneva
The Control of Neglected Zoonotic Diseases: From advocacy to action. Report of the fourth international meeting. WHO headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland 19–20 November 2014

30 July 2015 | Geneva
Report of the first WHO stakeholders meeting on rhodesiense human African trypanosomiasis Geneva, 20–22 October 2014