31 October, 2020

Cures For The Tropics

India’s battle against neglected tropical diseases gets a sharper edge due to global efforts and growing community engagement

A scene from Ben-Hur (1959) in which Judah searches for his family in the Valley of the Lepers.
Photograph by Getty Images
Cures For The Tropics

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...



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