WHO and partners call for renewed global efforts to unite, act and eliminate neglected tropical diseases

On World Neglected Tropical Disease Day 2024, WHO is calling on everybody, including leaders and communities, to unite and act to address and eliminate the inequalities that drive neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and to make bold, sustainable investments to free the estimated 1.62 billion people, in the world’s most vulnerable communities, from a vicious cycle of disease and poverty. NTDs continue to disproportionately affect the poorest members of the global community, primarily in areas where water safety, sanitation and access to health care are inadequate.

Significant progress

In 2023, remarkable progress was made in the global fight against NTDs, bringing us closer to our goal of controlling, eliminating and eradicating these diseases worldwide. In a landmark achievement for global health, 50 countries have now eliminated at least one NTD, bringing us half way point towards the ambitious target set in the WHO NTD 2021-2030 road map. Also in 2023, Bangladesh became the first country in the world to be validated for the elimination of visceral leishmaniasis, thanks to a wide collaborative effort. These milestones underscore the unwavering commitment and collaborative efforts of our global health community.

A pivotal moment was at the COP28 conference. Under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Reaching the Last Mile Forum was a testament to the growing recognition of NTDs in the global health agenda. More than US$ 777 million was pledged towards defeating NTDs, a clear indication of the international community’s commitment to this cause.

Also in December 2023, WHO officially recognized noma as an NTD, bringing to 21 the number of diseases and disease groups included in WHO’s list of NTDs. This presents a huge opportunity to strengthen cross-cutting work and linkages, both at global and country levels.

“On this World NTD Day, I call on leaders, communities, and all stakeholders to rally under the banner of ‘Unite. Act. Eliminate’,” said Dr Ibrahima Socé Fall, Director, WHO Global NTD Programme. “We must intensify our collective action, address the deep-rooted inequalities that fuel these diseases, and make bold, sustainable investments to ensure a future where NTDs are no longer a public health concern. Our commitment as WHO is unwavering, and we will continue to lead and collaborate at every level to achieve our goals and create a healthier world for all”.

Challenges remain

Successes were achieved in spite of persisting and new challenges.

Significantly, the threat of climate change looms large over our efforts. Shifting climatic patterns are impacting the spread of NTDs, making our fight against these conditions, especially those transmitted by vectors, even more challenging.

Achieving the road map 2030 targets remains challenging due to persistent underfunding. Despite their impact and the many success stories, NTDs often attract less financial support compared to other health priorities. This funding gap severely limits treatment, prevention, and research efforts necessary for more effective diagnostics, medicines, vaccines and interventions, and makes NTD programmes’ recovery from COVID-19 disruptions slower than expected. Moreover, logistical difficulties in reaching remote or unstable areas, where NTDs are most prevalent, exacerbate these challenges, making it harder to implement healthcare strategies and sustain long-term elimination and eradication efforts.

In light of these challenges, WHO and partners call for a renewed and united effort for WNTDD 2024 under the theme “Unite. Act. Eliminate”. It is only through collective action, leveraging the expertise and resources at the national, regional, and global levels, that we can overcome the challenges that prevent us from defeating NTDs effectively and sustainably.

WHO remains committed to leading the NTD agenda, working alongside governments, partners, and communities to ensure a future where NTDs are no longer a public health concern.

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