Neglected tropical diseases

We help to treat and prevent five debilitating diseases that affect more than a billion people. These are known as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

Neglected tropical diseases are a major cause of preventable blindness around the world.

These diseases affect more than a billion people and can cause severe and lifelong impairment. They are most prevalent in rural regions, poor urban areas and conflict zones. Yet they can be prevented, treated and, in many cases, eliminated.

Sightsavers works with thousands of local volunteers and has distributed more than a billion donated treatments to protect people against NTDs. We have also helped to eliminate diseases in several countries, including The Gambia, Ghana, Malawi, Benin and Mali. Yet despite our progress so far, there is more to be done.

With your help, we can continue to fight these devastating diseases to ensure no one suffers needlessly from conditions that can be treated and prevented.

Diseases we treat and prevent

Trachoma is the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness: there are 44 countries where people are at risk from the disease.

It starts off as a bacterial infection that can be easily treated. But if it’s not, over time it can cause the eyelashes to scrape against the eye, causing pain and, eventually, sight loss. Worldwide, it’s thought that 1.9 million people are blind or visually impaired because of the disease.

More about trachoma

This parasitic infection causes severe skin irritation and irreversible blindness, but it can be treated with antibiotics to stop it spreading and prevent sight loss.

It’s thought 1.1 million people worldwide are blind because of the disease, which is spread by the bite of infected flies that breed near fast-flowing rivers. This often forces people to move away from fertile river valleys, leaving them unable to grow crops.

More about river blindness

This disease, transmitted by mosquito bite, leads to swelling and abnormally enlarged body parts. This can be extremely painful and can lead to permanent physical changes.

The debilitating symptoms mean many people are unable to work, and children miss school to care for family members. It’s thought that 120 million people worldwide are infected, yet medication can protect people to prevent them catching it.

More about lymphatic filariasis

Intestinal worms live in the digestive system, causing malnourishment and leaving people susceptible to illness.

Children aged three to eight are most at risk: the disease can cause them to miss school, damaging their education and development. To prevent this, school children are often given a single dose of medication to treat the disease. Good hygiene can also stop intestinal worms spreading.

More about intestinal worms

Known as ‘snail fever’, schistosomiasis is caused by parasites released by freshwater snails. At first there may be no symptoms, but it can lead to pain, diarrhoea and death.

The disease mainly affects poorer communities that don’t have access to clean drinking water or adequate sanitation, but medication can stop people catching it. It is often treated alongside other neglected tropical diseases.

More about schistosomiasis

What we’re doing to fight disease

Two volunteers in Kenya wearing blue vests and holding medication.

We distribute medicine

Sightsavers works with partners to distribute millions of donated treatments in more than 30 countries around the world.
How we distribute medication

Tamara with her three-year-old son Daliso, who had successful surgery to remove his cataracts.

We train volunteers

These volunteers learn to check people’s symptoms, distribute preventative medication and refer patients for further treatment.
Meet our volunteers

Rose and Jonathan wash their hands together in a bowl of water outside their home.

We promote hygiene

Educating people about water, sanitation and hygiene initiatives (collectively known as WASH) is crucial to eliminate NTDs.
About WASH

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Your gift can help us tackle these debilitating diseases


How you can help

Since our work began, we’ve helped to eliminate trachoma in several countries.

We’ve also distributed more than a billion treatments to protect people from blinding diseases. But we need your support to continue our work to stop people going blind from avoidable causes.

With your help, we can continue to distribute medication to protect millions of people at risk of these diseases. We can treat thousands of people to prevent them going blind. And we can continue to train eye health staff so people can be diagnosed before it’s too late to save their sight.