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U.S. & Partners Unite to Control or Eliminate Neglected Tropical Diseases by 2020

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are a group of 17 diseases that disproportionally impact poor and rural populations who lack access to safe water, adequate sanitation, and essential medicines.  Yet, many NTDs can be controlled through existing, affordable interventions as evidenced by the tremendous progress that has been made in recent decades.  For instance, in 1986, there were roughly 3.5 million cases of Guinea worm disease throughout the world.  As of 2011, that number is down to 1,060.  The burden of other diseases, including leprosy, sleeping sickness and river blindness, has also been significantly reduced.

 NTDs affect more than one billion people and lead to $10 billion each year in lost productivity and treatment costs.  By providing access to existing drugs and accelerating research and development to generate new treatments, millions of people can have a better opportunity to succeed in school, earn a living wage, and lead a more productive life.

Building on these and other efforts, and recognizing that the opportunity exists to help millions of people avoid significant debilitation and disability, including resultant malnutrition, disfigurement and social discrimination, the World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a Roadmap for Implementation (PDF – 472KB) that outlines strategies and sets clear targets to control or eliminate these diseases by 2015 or 2020.

Cameroon is identified as one of the Countries where elimination is feasible by 2020. The following NTDs are targeted:

  • Lymphatic Filariasis (Elephantiasis):  Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is a mosquito-borne worm disease usually acquired in childhood.  Approximately 120 million people have LF.  LF is concentrated in Southeast Asia and Africa, with a significant burden in Brazil.
  • Onchocerciasis (River Blindness):  River Blindness is a parasitic disease of the skin and eyes.  The disease causes skin lesions, severe itching and visual impairment, including permanent blindness.  It is the second most common infectious cause of blindness, after trachoma.  An estimated 37 million people worldwide are infected.  More than 99% of those infected live in 30 endemic countries in Africa.  The remainder live in Yemen or several Central and South American countries.
  • Schistosomiasis:  Schistosomiasis is a disease that is transmitted through parasitic worms.  The parasite is transmitted to humans by penetration of the skin in fresh water.  Schistosomiasis is present in the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the Western Pacific.  The disease is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, which experiences more than 90% of cases.
  • Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis (Hookworm, Roundworm, Whipworm):  Soil-transmitted helminthes (STH) are intestinal worms transmitted through fecal-oral contamination or through
    the skin.  They include hookworm, roundworm and whipworm. Heavy worm burdens lead to malnutrition, anemia, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, loss of appetite, and impaired cognitive and physical development in children.  More than one billion people in tropical and subtropical regions are estimated to be infected with the worms that cause STH.  While STH result in low numbers of deaths, roughly 300 million people show severe symptoms.

For more information on NTDs efforts, visit http://www.unitingtocombatntds.org/.

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