In 2016, more than 1 billion people were treated for at least one neglected tropical disease.
Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are diseases of the poor and vulnerable that affect some 1.5 billion people. Their impact on individuals and communities can be devastating.
In 2012, a coalition of NGOs, governments, pharmaceutical companies, academic and research partners and others formed in London aiming to control, eliminate or eradicate 10 NTDs, including leprosy, by 2020.
Five years on, the 5th Progress Report of the London Declaration, released in December at the Universal Health Coverage Forum in Tokyo, highlights the progress made and challenges that remain in fighting Chagas disease, Guinea worm, sleeping sickness, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis , schistosomiasis, helminthiases, trachoma and visceral leishmaniosis.
In 2011, 1.9 billion people required interventions against NTDs. In 2016, that figure dropped to 1.5 billion, a decrease of 400 million who no longer need preventive chemotherapy, mainly due to the control of lymphatic filariasis. In 2016 alone, 1 billion people received treatment for at least one NTD.
Reaching some of the world’s poorest communities, NTD programs serve as a gateway to universal healthcare coverage. Population coverage is key to this and NTD programs “can open access to populations that are some of the most challenging to reach,” the report said.
On leprosy, the main obstacles identified include continued transmission of the disease, slow case detection and social exclusion, which not only causes suffering but “facilitates transmission by delaying detection and interrupting treatment.” The report also highlighted the lack of a diagnostic tool to measure infection.
Dr. Yo Yuasa, the former executive and medical director of Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation who died in 2016, aged 90, played a key role in the global effort to eliminate leprosy as a public health problem. A collection of his speeches and writings on leprosy over a 30-year period was published by the foundation in 2016.
A Life Fighting Leprosy has now been joined by a second volume, published on the first anniversary of his death in September.
My Family, My Life and My Work is Dr. Yuasa’s autobiography, telling the story of his upbringing in Kyoto and Tokyo, his struggles with tuberculosis as a young man and the encounter that would set him on the path of becoming a leprosy doctor in later life.
Both books are available for download from the SMHF website.