Health topics

Neglected tropical diseases


Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are defined as:

  • a group of medically diverse conditions prevalent in tropical and subtropical areas in Africa, Asia and South America
  • mainly affect populations living in poverty, with inadequate sanitation, in close contact with domestic animals and livestock, and infectious vectors
  • diseases for which those affected cannot afford treatment nor prevention, and therefore research and development for new medicines or tools lags behind
  • perpetuate poverty because they retard growth, cause chronic morbidity and disability, and generate social stigma

NTDs are immediately amenable to broad control, elimination or eradication by applying one or more of the five public health strategies:

  • preventive chemotherapy – the large-scale delivery of free and safe, single-dose, quality-assured medicines, either alone or in combination, at regular intervals to treat selected diseases;
  • innovative and intensified disease management – the management and ultimate elimination as a public health problem of diseases for which cost-effective control tools do not exist and where large-scale use of existing tools is limited;
  • vector and intermediate host control –the safe and judicious management of public-health measures to achieve vector control through integrated vector management;
  • Provision of safe water, sanitation and hygiene –the prioritization of improved sanitation combined with delivering preventive chemotherapy and health education to sustain reductions in prevalence of many of these diseases; and
  • zoonotic disease management – the application of veterinary sciences and interventions to protect and improve human health (also referred to as veterinary public-health).

Although one approach may predominate for the control of a specific disease or group of diseases, effective control results when several approaches are combined and delivered locally.

In the Western Pacific Region, 16 out of 20 NTDs are endemic and targeted for elimination or control.

Targeted for ELIMINATION (6 diseases): leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, rabies, schistosomiasis, trachoma, yaws

Targeted for CONTROL (10 disease conditions): buruli ulcere, Chagas disease, dengue, echinococcosis, foodborne trematode infections, leishmaniasis, scabies and other ectoparasites, snakebite envenoming, soil-transmitted helminthiases, taeniasis/cysticercosis