Neglected tropical diseases

As part of our work, we fight five debilitating diseases that affect more than a billion people. These parasitic and bacterial infections are known as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

An eye health worker examines a woman's eyes for signs of trachoma.

Neglected tropical diseases are most prevalent in rural areas, urban slums and in conflict zones. They affect some of the world’s poorest people and can cause severe and lifelong impairment.

The work of Sightsavers and partners shows that these diseases can be prevented, treated and eliminated. Here you can find out more about the five NTDs that Sightsavers focuses on (two blinding and three non-blinding), and the progress being made to combat them.


A community worker from Sightsavers' NTDs campaign.

A billion treatments

Over the past year we’ve been counting down to our one billionth supported treatment for neglected tropical diseases, and we’re excited to announce that we’ve finally reached our target.

Find out more


Trichiasis patient Edisa Nalubanga has her bandages removed after surgery.

Trachoma is the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness, and starts off as an eye infection a bit like conjunctivitis.

If it isn’t treated, over time it causes scarring to the eyelid that makes the eyelashes turn inward and scrape against the eye, causing tremendous pain and, eventually, blindness. The infection can be treated with antibiotics, while surgery can stop the eyelashes rubbing against the eyeball.

What we’re doing

Sightsavers aims to eliminate trachoma in the countries in which we work.

More about trachoma

River blindness

A man examines black fly larvae found near the the Agogo river in northern Uganda.

River blindness, also known as onchocerciasis, is a parasitic infection that can cause severe skin irritation, itching, visual impairment and irreversible blindness.

It is spread by the bite of infected black flies that breed in fast-flowing rivers, which gave rise to the term ‘river blindness’. It can be treated with medication to help stop the spread of infection.

What we’re doing

In 2017, Sightsavers helped to distribute more than 48 million treatments for the disease.

More on river blindness

Lymphatic filariasis

Students practice using measuring sticks to calculate drug dosages in Masindi, Uganda.

Lymphatic filariasis is a parasitic neglected tropical disease that’s transmitted via mosquito bite and affects up to 120 million people worldwide.

Long-term infection causes painful symptoms including abnormal enlargement of body parts, and the stigma that follows can have an additional devastating impact on those affected.

What we’re doing

We aim to eliminate lymphatic filariasis in the countries in which we work.

More about the disease

Intestinal worms

A woman crouches in a stream using a bucket to collect water in Nigeria.

Intestinal worms, also known as as soil-transmitted helminths, are one of the most common forms of infection worldwide.

People infected with intestinal worms can become malnourished and more susceptible to disease and chronic illness. This can have negative long-term effects on employment, education, fertility and happiness.

What we’re doing

In 2017, Sightsavers treated more than 11.8 million people for intestinal worms.

More about the disease


A boy holds a tablet used to treat neglected tropical diseases.

Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia or ‘snail fever’, is a neglected tropical disease caused by parasites that are released by freshwater snails.

Once they are inside the human body, the larvae develop into adult worms, causing pain, diarrhoea and even cancer. The infection mainly occurs in poorer communities that don’t have access to clean drinking water or adequate sanitation, but it can be controlled using medication.

What we’re doing

In 2017, Sightsavers provided more than 13 million treatments for schistosomiasis.

More on schistosomiasis
1 billion
people around the world are currently affected by NTDs*
countries have NTD programmes supported by Sightsavers
157 million
NTD treatments were distributed by us and partners in 2017

You can help us fight neglected tropical diseases


Our NTD projects

Khady, 8, from Senegal is measured for her annual dose of Zithromax.

The Accelerate trachoma elimination programme

Accelerate aims to eliminate trachoma in at least 10 countries and speed up progress in several others by 2023.

Boy is held by his mother, he has a face washing guide in his hand.

Super School of 5

This project, in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zambia, introduces five superhero cartoon characters to encourage school children to wash their hands and face.

A man examines black fly larvae found near the the Agogo river in northern Uganda.

Onchocerciasis elimination mapping project

We’re working with our partners in Ghana and Nigeria to devise new ways to collect valuable data about river blindness.

A schoolboy splashes water on his face to learn about facewashing, as part of a SAFE initiative in Senegal.

SAFE: trachoma control

The SAFE strategy aims to control the spread of blinding trachoma via surgery, antibiotics, facial cleanliness and environmental improvements.

A boy and his father amid a fast-flowing river, where the black flies that carry the river blindness parasite like to breed.

Reducing river blindness and lymphatic filariasis

River blindness and lymphatic filariasis are debilitating diseases caused by parasitic infections. But both can be treated using the same medication.

A close-up of a doctor holding a mobile phone.

mHealth: using mobile phones to fight disease

mHealth, which stands for ‘mobile health’, involves using mobile phones to collect data and provide training during global health programmes.

A woman has her eyes examined as part of a CATCH screening programme in Uganda.

Coordinated Approach to Community Health (CATCH)

This programme ensures patients at trachoma camps who are diagnosed with another eye condition are given treatment.

Tropical Data

This large-scale project uses smartphones to gather data for targeting trachoma treatment as part of the global fight towards trachoma elimination.

Community distributor Aliyu gives NTD medication to a young boy in Nigeria.

UNITED in Nigeria

The UNITED project, funded by UK aid, aims to deliver 116 million treatments in Nigeria to tackle neglected tropical diseases.

A girl's eyes are examined as part of the Global Trachoma Mapping Project in Nigeria.

The Global Trachoma Mapping Project

As the largest infectious disease survey ever undertaken, the GTMP gathered valuable data about the world’s trachoma-endemic areas using smartphones.

Learn how we’re fighting disease