Viewpoint: A Bold Bet By the US to End the World’s Most Neglected Diseases
Thursday, September 29, 2016
This year, the U.S. government marks 10 years of commitment to fighting neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). This is a success story that has largely flown under the radar when instead we should be heralding the progress we have made toward an ambitious vision of a world free from NTDs.
More than a billion people around the world are infected with at least one NTD and two billion more are at risk, but NTDs traditionally don’t grab headlines for a number of reasons. This group of parasitic and bacterial diseases affect the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, often cause disfigurement and disability rather than death, and have complicated, tongue-twisting names like schistosomiasis (also commonly known as bilharzia or snail fever), onchocerciasis (river blindness) and lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis).
A decade ago, the U.S. government chose not to neglect these diseases and the people they affect. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched arguably the largest public-private partnership in its history and one of the most underrated global development success stories of our time. It’s an effort backed by longstanding bipartisan leadership and support in Congress for foreign assistance, and specifically for global health.
In its 10-year history, USAID has supported the delivery of more than 1.6 billion treatments to prevent and treat seven highly prevalent NTDs across 25 countries. As a result, more than 140 million are no longer at risk for lymphatic filariasis, and we’re ambitiously aiming to control and eliminate these NTDs by 2020. To date, every $1 invested by USAID in NTDs leverages $26 in pharmaceutical donations for mass treatment campaigns, an attractive return on investment for any entrepreneur.
- Health Care