[Burning Issues] Neglected Tropical Diseases


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  • They are a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries and affect more than one billion people.
  • Populations living in poverty, without adequate sanitation and in close contact with infectious vectors and domestic animals and livestock are those worst affected.
  • India leads the world in terms of the total number of cases for each of the major NTDs, excluding those that are spatially bound by their requirement for unique insect vectors or snail hosts.

Why NTDs need attention

  • These 17 chronic parasitic, bacterial and viral infections have affected 1.6 billion people across 149 countries.
  • These remain underreported because the victims are the poorest and the most marginalized with no accessibility of  treatment
  • They cause severe illness like disability, disfigurement and cognitive impairment
  • They aggravate poverty by hurting pregnancy outcomes, slowing child development and lowering productivity.

How India shares the burden of Neglected Tropical Disease (As per GBD Study, 2016)

Neglected Tropical Disease Cases in India (as a % of world cases)
Ascariasis 28%
Hookworm disease 23%
Trichuriasis(WhipWorm) 16%
Dengue 53%
Trachoma 53%
Cysticercosis(Tapeworm Infection) 31%
Leprosy (WHO data) 51%
Cystic Echinococcosis 12%
Kala-Azar 45%
Rabies 33%
Filariasis 29%

India’s Performance

  • As per WHO (2017), India has achieved the target for eliminating kala-azar in 82 % sub-districts.
  • As per Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, India is now free from ‘Infective Trachoma’.
  • India became the first member state of WHO, to eliminate chronic disease yaws in 2015.
  • Mass treatment
    • 75% of cases deworming cases received treatment in 2015.
    • 40 Cr filariasis cases received treatment.

Initiatives by Government to curb Neglected Tropical Diseases

National Rabies Control Programme : This programme is being restructured as Integrated National Rabies Control Programme under ‘One Health Approach’,with a aim to provide vaccination to stray dogs and free vaccines through Government hospitals

  • National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP): It is a comprehensive programme for prevention and control of vector borne diseases namely Malaria, Filaria, Kala-azar, Japanese Encephalitis (JE), Dengue and Chikungunya.
  • National Leprosy Eradication Programme: Programme was launched with a goal of elimination of leprosy as public health problem by 2005.

Global Initiatives

CEPI – Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations

  • It is a global alliance between governments, industry, academia, philanthropy, intergovernmental institutions, such as the World Health Organization, and civil society.
  • An alliance to finance and coordinate the development of new vaccines to prevent and contain infectious disease epidemics
  • It was officially launched in January 2017 at World Economic Forum(WEF) at Davos.
  • The Headquarters will be located in Oslo, Norway.
  • India has joined CEPI to lead the fight against epidemics.
  • CEPI’s plan includes preparations for possible outbreaks of Marburg fever, Lassa fever, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome(MERS), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome(SARS), Nipah virus, Rift Valley fever, Chikungunya etc.

Way forward

  • Think globally, act locally. Study and adopt global ‘best-practices’ after customising them to local needs.
  • Apply integrated approach. Instead of targeting various diseases individually, follow a holistic strategy.
  • Ensure efficient and effective collaboration across various govt departments.
  • Partner with Civil Society Organisations (especially with WASH – Water, Sanitation and Hygiene – sector) for ground-level implementation and monitoring.
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