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Ten Years of Fighting Neglected Tropical Diseases

Doctor for tropical medicine Florian Steiner demonstrates the testing of a blood sample at the quarantine station for patients with infectious diseases at the Charite hospital in Berlin.

About one billion people, or every seventh person, suffers from at least one neglected tropical disease. Neglected tropical diseases.

Ten Years of Fighting Neglected Tropical Diseases
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About one billion people, or every seventh person, suffers from at least one neglected tropical disease. Neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, are chronic disabling illnesses that thrive in areas with poor sanitation, lack of clean drinking water and scant access to medication.

NTDs have blinded, disabled, disfigured and killed their victims for centuries, devastating individuals and entire communities. They affect the ability of children to thrive and to learn, and of adults to work, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

Nonetheless, most of these diseases are frequently preventable or treatable, often with low-cost medications. So, ten years ago, working through the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, the United States government launched a public-private partnership to treat those who suffer from NTDs, and to help prevent contamination and spread of the parasites that cause them through improved sanitation, preventive treatments, and mass drug distribution campaigns.

Working in partnership with the United Kingdom's Department for International Development, the Conrad Hilton Foundation, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust and many more, USAID has been instrumental in the delivery of more than 1.6 billion treatments to prevent and treat seven of the most common NTDs. Some 743 million people across 25 countries directly benefited from these treatments. Much of the medication was donated by pharmaceutical companies, which have given over 11 billion dollars’ worth of drugs free of charge to the countries where USAID supports mass treatment campaigns.

Moving forward, over the next five years, USAID and its partners plan to provide 1.3 billion treatments, leverage 6 billion dollars in donated drugs, and prevent more than 585 million cases of NTDs. The partners hope to eliminate Trachoma, the world's leading cause of preventable blindness; Lymphatic Filariasis, a painful and disfiguring parasitic infection transmitted by mosquitos; and to break the transmission of diseases like Schistosomiasis by improving sanitation.

“Working together with our partners over the past ten years,” said USAID Administrator Gayle Smith, “we have figured out an approach that works, and freed over a hundred million people from these parasitic worms and bacterial infections that have held communities back for too long.

“Now is the time to double down and reach scale."