30 January 2020 marks the first World NTD Day, signalling a landmark year in the global fight against these painful diseases.
The international day has drawn attention to neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) all over the world, with celebrations taking place across five continents and 37 countries with over 250 partners involved.
Dr Caroline Harper, CEO of Sightsavers, said: “This first-ever World NTD Day is a global health milestone. It not only gives us reason to celebrate achievements, but also launches a landmark NTD year when governments, organisations and communities will come together and drive progress towards this aim.
“We are so close to ending NTDs – but we are not there yet. We need commitments from donors and endemic-country governments so these debilitating diseases can finally be consigned to the history books.”
NTDs threaten more than a billion people worldwide from the poorest and most marginalised communities, causing long-term sickness and debilitation if left untreated. Some, like trachoma and river blindness, can also cause sight loss. They threaten a person’s health as well as their chances to go to school, work and contribute to their community.
This group of infections are known as ‘neglected’ because of the lack of attention they have received in the past from the global health community. But with enough global attention and resources, we can remove the threat of these diseases. All NTDs are preventable or treatable, with medicines available to treat them.
Alongside partners, Sightsavers has been leading the fight against these infections in more than 30 countries around the world, reaching some of the most remote communities to ensure no one is left behind.
The date 30 January marks eight years since the London Declaration, when key global players met in London to forge a landmark agreement to act on NTDs. Since then, 31 countries have eliminated at least one NTD, helped by some of the largest public health initiatives ever seen around the world.
Since 2012, four countries have eliminated river blindness and nine countries have eliminated trachoma. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a 91% global drop in the number of people at risk of trachoma. The current rate of success suggests it could be possible to eliminate trachoma globally within a generation and make significant progress with other NTDs.
Together, we can beat NTDs for good, for all.
To learn more, see our World NTD Day web page and highlights from the day.