On January 30, as scores of countries join the World Health Organisation (WHO) to roll out ambitious new targets for controlling five of 20 Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) by the year end, there is greater optimism that many, including India, will see more success due to concerted efforts. Combating NTDs—estimated to affect around 1.7 billion people, mostly the poor, in 149 countries—is difficult but not impossible as proved by India’s experience in eliminating YAWS, an infection of the skin, bones and joints caused by the spirochete bacterium treponema pallidum pertenue, in 2006.
Included in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, containing the spread of NTDs is not easy, but health experts and global funders feel it can be done with greater political commitment, community involvement, improved coordination, supply and delivery processes. “Governments and various stakeholders now recognise that community engagement is the key driver to ensure sustainability in maintaining health-seeking behaviour,” says Rajshree Das, director programme (NTDs), Project Concern International. “The progress in visceral leishmaniasis and lymphatic filariasis (LF) elimination in India are some concrete examples to learn from.”