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Neglected Tropical Diseases Hamper Poverty Fight

The United Nations has a well-stated goal to end extreme global poverty by the year 2030, and to achieve that goal their agencies are fighting on a number of fronts. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has recently announced the importance that Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) have in the fight against global poverty. Ban wrote in a recent letter that, “poverty reduction and the elimination of NTDs go hand-in-hand.” He has also issued a report on the importance of eliminating these preventable diseases.

Recent studies done by the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases state that one in six people in the world suffer from an NTD. Neglected Tropical Diseases are considered any one of 17 parasitic and bacterial infections, seen as precursors to such widely known diseases as malaria and tuberculosis. The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases states that they “disable and trap the poor in a cycle of poverty… by undercutting adults’ ability to work productively and take care of their families.”

These diseases are considered “neglected,” because they are treatable, yet the money and resources are not available in many developing nations. Instead it is up to agencies and networks to get the proper necessities to the people. Organizations like the World Health Assembly, the World Bank and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have all made pledges to combat Neglected Tropical Diseases, yet the problem is still rampant in certain areas of the world.

Neglected Tropical Diseases are fought in a number of ways, but general methods focus on providing people with basic needs such as safe drinking water and accessible health care. Researchers are currently developing vaccines to combat various Neglected Tropical Diseases, while others struggle to gain access to existing drugs for diseases like malaria.

While agencies like the World Bank and the United Nations are working to fight the spread of these diseases, their efforts are spread thin over a number of areas. Cholera is considered an NTD by some, and it has emerged as a major problem in post-earthquake Haiti. Cholera has once again become an epidemic, as aid from the earthquake has begun to disappear. Recently, over 5,000 Haitians filed a lawsuit against the UN, blaming the organization for the outbreak. According to one study, 700,000 cases of cholera have been diagnosed in Haiti in the past three years, pointing to the epidemic plaguing the country.

The fight against Neglected Tropical Diseases is closely tied to the fight against global poverty. Some of these diseases have been problems in the world for hundreds of years, yet in the Western world they have largely become a thing of the past. It is up to the leaders of wealthy, Western nations to take up this fight and give people in developing countries a fighting chance to participate in the global economy and create a safer world for their families.

Eric Gustafsson

Sources: Global Network, The Guardian, Malaria Policy Center, Global Network, NIH
Photo: Bionews Texas