Explanation of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and its Impact

January 30th, 2020 marked the very first World NTD Day, a day which is meant to create further awareness of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). This specific category of diseases affects some of the most impoverished people in the world and costs developing economies billions of dollars each year. Dr. Thoko Elphick-Pooley, director of a collective called Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases, spoke with Mark Goldberg about the importance of this day. She explained that, “In spite of these diseases affecting over 1.5 billion people, not many people actually know about them. So, there’s a need for awareness of these diseases and World NTD day is an opportunity that brings partners from around the globe.” Dr. Thoko Elphick-Pooley, mentions that there are 300 partners today who initiate conversations to help the people who suffer from NTDs become less neglected.

The W.H.O. Roadmap and Financial Support

NTDs are a priority for The World Health Organization, which implies that this should be a world-united effort in order to affect change. That being said, Dr. Thoko Elphick-Pooley describes the process that the W.H.O. goes through when they create their roadmap, which contains ambitious goals and strategies to eliminate NTDs. W.H.O. asks themselves “…what are the approved treatment strategies? What are the tools that can be used in order to bring those diseases to an end? And how do we verify that those diseases or countries, for example, are eliminating them?” While the task to eliminate these diseases seems like an intimidating feat, W.H.O.’s ambitions are not in vain. Partners contribute funds to provide medicine for the treatment of NTDs which enables exciting progress. In fact, Dr. Thoko Elphick-Pooley commented on that financial aid. She said that many companies contributed, “17 billion [dollars] worth of medicines to treat NTDs… They did make some specific investments in terms of providing and employing technical staff that were going to support the countries in the delivery. So it really was an important point that added resource to the delivery.”

Progress of Disease Elimination

Currently, Dr. Thoko Elphick-Pooley’s hopes are high, and for good reason. She proudly announces that, “Since 2012, 31 countries have been validated by the World Health Organization as having eliminated at least one NTD in eight… countries in Africa, including Kenya for Guinea Worm elimination, Ghana for Tracoma.” When asked about future prospects, she confidently predicts, “a 90% reduction in the numbers of people requiring an NTD intervention by 2030. That means [the] 1.5 billion people that are currently receiving an intervention of any kind against neglected tropical diseases will not need it in the next 10 years.” Both statistics given by Dr. Thoko Elphick-Pooley’s show that progress is happening, and elimination is possible for the Neglected Tropical Diseases occurring in our world today.

For more information from Dr. Thoko Elphick-Pooley’s interview with Mark Goldberg, make sure to listen to the Global Dispatches Podcast’s episode titled The Fight Against ‘Neglected Tropical Diseases’ Gets a Boost wherever you listen to your podcasts.

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