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Fighting Disease To Eliminate Poverty


FILE - A dengue fever victim receives medical treatment at a health center in Managua, Oct. 31, 2013. Hemorrhagic dengue was responsible for 14 deaths in Nicaragua so far this year, with the number of cases confirmed at more than five thousand, according

Neglected Tropical Diseases disproportionately burden the poor.

During his 2013 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama called for the eradication of extreme poverty world-wide by the year 2030. One of the keys to achieving this goal is to prevent and control diseases that disproportionately burden the poor. This includes vector-borne illnesses—those transmitted by mosquitoes, flies, ticks and bugs—such as Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Over a billion people suffer from one or more neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs. Sometimes also called diseases of the forgotten people, these illnesses affect mostly people living in rural areas and urban slums of low-income countries. They are most common wherever access to clean water and sanitation is lacking, and where children suffer from malnutrition.

NTDs are devastating both to those suffer from them and to their communities. Many of these diseases can impair intellectual development in children, reduce school enrollment, and hinder economic productivity of entire communities by limiting the ability of infected individuals to work.

These usually treatable and preventable diseases include Schistosomiasis; Elephantiasis; Trachoma; Chagas Disease; River Blindness; Leprosy; Kala-azar, dengue, black fever and other forms of Leishmaniasis; and the three most common infections -- the soil-transmitted parasites hookworm, roundworm and whipworm. Together, they cause as much damage as HIV, malaria or tuberculosis.

The United States has been a part of the global effort to control these diseases since 2006. Then, two years ago, working through the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Government joined Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases, a partnership that also includes the governments of the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the World Bank; 13 pharmaceutical companies; and other global health organizations dedicated to accelerating progress toward eliminating or controlling 10 NDTs by the end of the decade. As of 2012, the USAID NTD program has supported the delivery of 820 million treatments globally.

Controlling, and perhaps eventually eliminating these diseases cannot be achieved by one group, or one country acting alone. The problem is too wide spread, too complex, and must be attacked on many levels. It will require much effort, funding, and political will. Only by working together can we hope to overcome these ancient causes of human misery, and improve the lives of over a billion people.
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