A landmark week for NTDs as WHO road map launches

28 Jan 2021

Today, a huge step towards eliminating and controlling neglected tropical diseases has been taken as the World Health Organization’s NTD 2021–2030 road map is launched.

Strengthened collective response to NTDs

Mapping NTDs and malaria in Guinea Bissau. Photo: Thomas Sammut

“Ending the neglect to attain the Sustainable Development Goals: a road map for neglected tropical diseases 2021–2030” aims to strengthen the response to NTDs by bringing together shared goals and disease specific targets.

One of the road map’s many ambitious targets is to ensure that 100% of all NTD-endemic communities have access to at least basic water and sanitation services by 2030.

As well as ambitious goals, the road map calls all NTD stakeholders to rally around a common workplan and promote three main shifts: from process to impact; from vertical programmes to cross-cutting, cross-sectoral approaches; and from external- to country-driven agendas.

Tamar Ghosh, RSTMH Chief Executive said:

“We are delighted to support the launch of the 2021–2030 road map today. We commend the WHO for the collaborative approach which has brought the road map to life, and is needed for the next decade to enable these ambitious targets to be met.

"At government, organisational and individual level there is work for us all to do, so that in 2030 the number of people affected by these diseases is greatly reduced. Through the special issue of our journal and our blog series we celebrate today's launch, and look forward to using our networks and partnerships to do all we can to help."

The road map, which was unanimously endorsed at the 73rd World Health Assembly in November 2020, is the result of extensive collaboration between Member States and the global NTD community.

Dr Mwelecele Malecela, director of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases at the World Health Organization, said:

“The 20 NTDs are each aetiologically, epidemiologically and clinically unique. They do share one defining characteristic, however: they impact the poorest communities and trap those communities in cycles of poverty. They collectively affect more than 1 billion people in such communities worldwide, heaping devastating health, social and economic consequences on affected individuals and their families.”

“In all the talk of collaboration and accountability, we should never forget that our most important collaborators are the individuals who are or might be affected by NTDs, and that our ultimate accountability is to them.”

Neglected Tropical Diseases: Planning for the Next Decade of Progress

Photo: PAHO

A special issue of Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, commissioned in collaboration with WHO to mark the launch of the 2021–2030 road map for NTDs, is published today, entitled "Neglected Tropical Diseases: Planning for the Next Decade of Progress".

This important collection of papers discussing the success and challenges of both the previous and upcoming road map has been commissioned by four guest editors, all experienced professionals working in the field of neglected tropical diseases, including Dr Anthony Solomon (WHO), Professor David Mabey (LSHTM and RSTMH Past President) and Dr Martha Saboyá (PAHO).

All the articles, which are open access and free to read, have been written by world-renowned global health experts, including Dr Mwelecele Malecela.

Ending NTDs: Together towards 2030

Over the last year, we have worked in partnership with the WHO, and NTD pioneers, such as Dr Wendy Harrison and Professors Ahmed Fahal, Diana Lockwood and Alan Fenwick to publish a series of blogs that feature NTDs such as rabies, schistosomiasis, snakebite, leprosy, mycetoma, guinea worm and onchocerciasis.

The series, “Ending NTDs: Together towards 2030” not only demonstrates the successes and progress made so far, but also what needs to happen to reach the road map's targets of elimination and eradication.

World NTD Day and World Leprosy Day

As well as the launch of the WHO road map, this week is an extremely important moment in the calendar to raise awareness of the impact of NTDs, as we celebrate World NTD Day on 30 January and World Leprosy Day on 31 January.

RSTMH is proud to be a partner of World NTD Day, alongside over 270 other organisations fighting NTDs across the world. Now in its second year, World NTD Day brings together civil society advocates, community leaders, global health experts and policymakers working across the diverse NTD landscape, and unifies partners behind our common goal: to face NTDs and end the neglect.

30 January is the anniversary of the landmark 2012 London Declaration on NTDs, which unified partners across sectors, countries and disease communities to push for greater investment and action on NTDs.

A senior field technician for leprosy in Ghana starts diagnosis through the skin sensation test. Photo: Elssie Ansareo/Anesvad

To mark World Leprosy Day, we are sharing how our Small Grants Programme has enabled early careers researchers and professionals to carry out important work to fight this disease. Daniele Bertoluci, for example, is looking at poor treatment compliance in Brazil, whereas Joshua Coker’s research is targeting misdiagnosis in Sierra Leone.

Our 2021 Small Grants Programme opens for applications on 1 February

We have also made a collection of leprosy research from the RSTMH journals – Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene and International Health – freely available.

Tamar Ghosh said: "This is a landmark week to raise awareness of, and tackle these 20 diseases which devastate the lives of over 1 billion people, and their families. With the focus of the WHO road map launch, World NTD Day and World Leprosy Day we hope this will galvanise ideas, funds and activities to address these diseases over the coming years."