PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) today celebrates its support of the delivery of 1 billion Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) treatments that are helping more than 465 million people in 25 countries in some of the world’s poorest populations.
To celebrate this milestone, USAID is launching One Billion and Counting: Accelerating Action to Eliminate NTDs by 2020.
To date, USAID has supported the Haitian Ministry of Health and Population in the provision of over 40 million NTD treatments to 20 million people in Haiti alone. In 2013, Haiti’s Ministry of Health and Population, with USAID support, provided nearly 10 million treatments for lymphatic filariasis and soil-transmitted helminthes to almost 5 million people (including school-aged children), reaching over 90 percent of the target population. Haiti successfully reached national scale for lymphatic filariasis treatment in 2012.
“While this is indeed a celebratory moment for USAID and our partners, we must continue to work harder and smarter to reach the goals set forth in the World Health Organization’s NTD Roadmap for the control and elimination of NTDs,” said Dr. Ariel Pablos-Mendez, Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Global Health Bureau. “Much-needed drugs are available thanks to donations from our pharmaceutical partners, but these drugs can only reach those who need them the most when there is assurance that in-country distribution mechanisms and plans are in place.
“Now is the time for increased investment from countries and donors to ensure that NTD drugs can and will be provided. Losing this investment will turn back the clock on progress.”
NTDs are a diverse group of diseases that affect more than 1 billion people - one-sixth of the world’s population – including an estimated 800 million children. NTDs almost exclusively impact poor people living in rural areas and urban slums of low-income countries.
Women and children are especially at risk. For instance, due to their primary role as caretakers of children, women are more commonly affected by trachoma, which causes pain and blindness during the most productive years of life. NTDs also keep children from living healthy, productive lives, causing malnutrition, reduced school enrollment and compromised intellectual development.
These diseases can kill and frequently impair, blind, or disfigure and have devastating economic consequences for communities due to the loss of productivity and income.
Preventing and controlling NTDs is central to achieving President Obama’s vision of ending extreme poverty in the next two decades. Investments in global health, like USAID’s NTD program, target the symptoms of and pathways out of poverty, as well as provide valuable assistance for our partners to effectively deliver services. Moreover, these investments protect Americans at home and abroad, promote social and economic progress, and support the rise of capable partners who can help solve regional and global problems.
Since its inception in 2006, USAID’s NTD program has focused on the large-scale implementation of integrated treatment programs for NTDs, primarily the scale-up of mass drug administration to target the control and/or elimination of lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis), blinding trachoma, onchocerciasis(river blindness), schistosomiasis, and soil-transmitted helminthes (intestinal worms).
USAID’s NTD program is the largest public-private partnership collaboration in the Agency’s 50-year history. To date it has enabled $6.7 billion in donated medicines, representing one of the most cost-effective and innovative partnerships in global health.
Central to this process are significant drug donations from several pharmaceutical partners. Five of the drugs needed to treat NTDs, albendazole, mebendazole, Mectizan®, praziquantel and Zithromax®, are donated by GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Co., Inc., Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and Pfizer, respectively.
As a result of the support provided by USAID, 59 million people now live in areas where they are no longer at risk of acquiring lymphatic filariasis and treatment can be stopped, and 35 million people live in areas where active trachoma is no longer a public health problem.
USAID’s NTD program works with a wide range of partners, including the governments of 25 affected countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas as well as pharmaceutical companies, non-governmental organizations, bilateral partners, faith-based organizations, and foundations, to ensure that effective treatment reaches at-risk individuals.