Governments and private donors have pledged more than $800 million to control or eliminate neglected tropical diseases. The commitment was made at a five-day summit convened to advance efforts to fight river blindness, sleeping sickness, schistosomiasis and other disabling diseases of poverty.
In keeping with its commitment to tackle neglected tropical diseases, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is contributing $335 million in grants to support projects over the next four years.
Neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, affect more than one-and-a-half billion people in 149 countries, including more than one-half billion children. They kill about 170,000 people yearly and cause untold suffering for millions of men, women and children who are disfigured, disabled, stigmatized and unable to work their way out of poverty.
Leaders from governments, pharmaceutical companies, and charitable organizations gathered at the event hosted by the Gates Foundation to celebrate the achievements of the 2012 London Declaration. That landmark agreement produced a road map for the control, elimination and eradication of 10 of the world’s 18 NTDs by 2020.
Foundation CEO Bill Gates says the goals have not all been met, but great progress has been made over the past five years.
“Some of these diseases are on track to be done by 2020, some by 2025, some will take longer than that. But, in areas like sleeping sickness — great results, great tools and just the level of sophistication being put together here. Part of what has enabled it is the unbelievable drug donations,” he said.
The World Health Organization says nearly one billion people a year have been receiving drugs to prevent one or more NTDs. Sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 40 percent of these diseases are concentrated, has been a major recipient of donated drugs with great results.
For example, WHO notes the development of non-toxic drugs for African sleeping sickness has reduced the number of cases of this deadly disease from 37,000 in 1999 to well under 3,000 cases in 2015.