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Financial Investment for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)

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The report ‘INVESTING TO OVERCOME THE GLOBAL IMPACT OF NEGLECTED TROPICAL DISEASES’ which is the 3rd  WHO report on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) was just release few days ago and after perusing its 211 pages, I felt compelled to share some key findings from the report. Many of us aren’t inform about NEGLECTED TROPICAL DISEASES and their public health implications. Not too long ago I came across a project in Katsina State in Nigeria solely for the eradication NTDs and was thrilled by its positive impact.

The report highlighted 17 neglected tropical diseases on the global development agenda at a time of profound transitions in the economies of endemic countries and in thinking about the overarching objectives of development. In doing so, it reinvigorates the drive to prevent, control, eliminate, or eradicate diseases that blind, maim, and disfigure, making life miserable for more than a billion people. Undetected and untreated, several almost invariably kill. The burden of these diseases is further amplified by the fact that many require chronic and costly care, underscoring the economic as well as the health benefits of preventive chemotherapy and early detection and care.

It revealed that investing to overcome the global impact of neglected tropical diseases charts new ground in tackling the 17 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that affect more than a billion people in 149 countries worldwide. It makes the case for domestic investment to reach the targets of WHO’s Roadmap on NTDs by 2020 and sustain enhanced, equitable access to high-quality coverage against these diseases to 2030. This third WHO report anticipates the investments needed as countries graduate from low-income to middle-income status and as the world’s focus expands from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals. It also reported that in May 2013, the Sixty-sixth World Health Assembly adopted resolution WHA66.12 on Neglected tropical diseases. To ensure that the Resolution has greatest impact, partners, stakeholders and academia are encouraged to generate further momentum for transforming its recommendations into reality.

The report also discusses the progress achieved to date. More than 74 countries worldwide are ready to implement national NTD master plans, stimulating increased demand for programme implementation and donated medicines crucial to reaching the Roadmap’s targets. More people than ever received preventive treatment for at least one disease in 2012.

Some Key Success across the globe;

  1. Globally, a total of 27 countries have achieved the target of 75% treatment coverage of school age children for soil-transmitted helminthiases.
  2. Sustained efforts over the past 15 years have reduced the number of new cases of human African trypanosomiasis by 90%.
  3. In 2013, Colombia became the first country in which WHO verified the elimination of onchocerciasis (river blindness), followed by Ecuador in 2014.
  4. Bangladesh is poised to eliminate visceral leishmaniasis as a public-health problem.
  5. China has sustained its national schistosomiasis control programme and interrupted transmission in most endemic areas. Since 2006, more than 5 billion anti-parasitic treatments, mostly donated by the pharmaceutical industry, have been delivered to populations in need.

Although support from major donors continues and important progress has been achieved, challenges remain. The report focuses on the need for enhanced domestic investment and also considers what the universal health coverage (UHC) targets imply for NTD programmes in terms of population coverage with prevention and financial risk-protection against the cost of treatment and care. It explained that a WHO/World Bank framework for monitoring progress towards universal health coverage at country and global levels calls for two targets to be reached by 2030:

  1. A minimum of 80% essential health services coverage.
  2. 100% financial protection from out-of-pocket payments for health services.

The following are the investment targets;

  1. The UHC target of 80% essential health services coverage is broadly consistent with coverage targets for the prevention of NTDs. Furthermore, a precondition for reaching the UHC target of 100% financial protection by 2030 is that all NTD cases are financially protected.
  2. Excluding vector control, the investments required to meet the Roadmap’s targets for 2015–2020 total an average of US$ 750 million per year. Maintaining progress beyond 2020 until 2030 will require an additional US$ 460 million per year in investment as interventions are scaled down and diseases are eradicated, eliminated or controlled.
  3. Vector control is expected to assume an increasing share of investment within the NTD portfolio between 2015–2020 as arboviral diseases spread globally with rapid unplanned urbanization, population movement and environmental change. Total investments for this period, including vector control, are estimated at less than US$ 18 billion, or US$ 2.9 billion on average per year. Total investments for the period 2015–2030 amount to US$ 34 billion, excluding donated medicines.
  4. The recent report of the Uniting to Combat NTDs coalition estimates cash and in-kind aid at about US$ 300 million in 2014, excluding donated medicines.
  5. The domestic investment target for universal coverage against NTDs represents less than 0.1% (one-tenth of 1%) of domestic expenditure on health expected within the group of low- and middle-income countries for the period 2015–2030. The percentage is highest for the group of low-income countries, where the domestic investment target for NTDs is nonetheless still well below 1% of domestic expenditure on health.

Having said all the above the tropical countries including Nigeria must reinvigorate their commitment by allocating adequate financial resources to complement funds from donor countries and pharmaceutical giants if they are to combat NTDs.

1st published by Daily Trust Newspaper , 24th Feb 2015 by  Dr Aminu Magashi Publisher Health Reporters (healthweekly@yahoo.com)  

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