Endemic in 149 countries, neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), such as dengue, Chagas disease and schistosomiasis, affect more than a billion people worldwide, particularly in the poorest areas. Despite the fact that about 50 million people die from an NTD every year, much of the NTD disease burden stems from disability rather than death. In fact, when measured in disability-adjusted life years, the NTD burden is greater than that of malaria or tuberculosis. Given their ability to cause immense suffering, long-term disability and death, NTDs continuously set back poverty reduction efforts and socioeconomic development.
Some gains have been made in controlling, eliminating or eradicating some NTDs, but much more needs to be done. Stronger, more efficient healthcare systems are needed. And because NTDs are normally quite easy and cheap to treat with existing medicines, improved access to affordable medicines is also required.
Health Action International advocates for improved access to needed medicines, including those for NTDs. We also press for increased investment into needs-driven research and development into new medicines.
Snakebite: A Special NTD
Snakebite envenoming, which causes considerable mortality and morbidity worldwide, is now also recognised as an NTD. The highest burden predominantly affects poor people living in rural settings, particularly in South and Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Although accurate statistics are difficult to attain, snakebite kills 81,000–138,000 people every year and permanently disables 400,000 more. Those who recover from a venomous snakebite end up with permanent tissue damage, disability and even paralysis, leading to high socioeconomic and psychological inequality.
Health Action International is working with partners, including the Global Snakebite Initiative, to build a global agenda around snakebite envenoming. We are also rolling out our Snakebite Programme in Kenya, Uganda and Zambia with country partners to study this under-researched NTD and carry out advocacy, based on our research, to change policies that improve snakebite prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.
For more information on our work related to NTDs, visit these areas on our site: