130731 Why neglected tropical diseases matter in reducing poverty

Why neglected tropical diseases matter in reducing poverty

Working Paper. Overseas Development Institute

While neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) have been recognised for centuries – indeed as ‘biblical plagues’ – NTDs have, as the name implies, remained below the radar of most international and national policy-makers.

This relative neglect can be seen in examining the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) framework: while NTDs are supposedly included in MDG 6 under ‘other diseases’, they are largely forgotten in favour of the HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis (TB) parts of MDG 6, as evidenced by the fact that there are no indicators specifc to them.
One possible explanation for international disinterest is that NTDs almost exclusively affect the developing
world (though this is also true for malaria) and are not likely to spread far beyond; indeed, many NTDs have disappeared completely in the developed world due to improved hygiene and sanitation standards. Similarly, they tend to affect the poorest people, who have little political voice or lobbying capacity. They are also
largely chronic conditions, which, with few exceptions, are not prone to epidemics

Key messages:

  • Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) have a direct impact on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Without addressing these diseases, the broader aim of poverty alleviation is unlikely to be achieved.
  • Straightforward and highly cost-effective strategies are available to control and eventually eradicate or eliminate NTDs.
  • Success in controlling, eliminating or eradicating NTDs depends on partnerships between multiple constituencies that enable countries to adapt international guidelines to local contexts, integrate NTD programmes into health systems and engage communities in implementation.