Neglected tropical diseases

Reaching WHO roadmap targets is top priority in changing NTD landscape

1 May 2014 | Geneva
Dr Dirk Engels, Director, Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases

The Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases is committed to achieving the targets of the WHO roadmap on NTDs as control interventions for some diseases are being scaled up in many countries.

“The priority is to ensure that WHO’s roadmap targets for 2015 and 2020 are met through the implementation of five public health approaches ,” says Dr Engels, who takes over as the new Director of the Department today. “Strengthening the capacity of countries to meet current scale-up of interventions is crucial to the success of disease control programmes.”

Dr Engels says the best way to achieve this goal is to work closely with partners and other organizations involved in capacity strengthening activities, with a focus on ‘large population countries’ where implementation of control programmes is often a challenge.

Achieving the interruption of dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease) transmission by 2015 is crucial to its eventual eradication. In 2013, there were only 148 cases of the disease reported to WHO compared with 542 in 2012. From 1 January to 30 April 2014, just 10 cases had been reported.

“The priority is to ensure that WHO’s roadmap targets for 2015 and 2020 are met through the implementation of five public health approaches”

Dr Dirk Engels, Director of Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases

The Department will also focus on measures to implement the Global Strategy for dengue prevention and control 2012–2020 as well as the Morges Strategy for yaws eradication; sustain current progress towards the elimination of human African trypanosomiasis and accelerate control of neglected zoonotic diseases.

On the evolving NTD landscape, Dr Engels noted:

“The NTD landscape is changing: it is now becoming clear that the need for interventions against poverty-related diseases such as NTDs is shifting from low to middle-income countries. This change may require a re-thinking of our global control strategy and for yet stronger ties with the wider NTD community and countries.”

Neglected tropical diseases are a medically diverse group of infections caused by a variety of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, protozoa and helminths.

The 17 neglected tropical diseases prioritized by WHO affect more than 1 billion people worldwide and are endemic in 149 countries.


1 WHO's five public-health strategies for overcoming the 17 neglected tropical diseases are:

  • 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 of diseases that are difficult to diagnose and treat and which can, in most cases, trigger severe clinical manifestations and complications;
  • vector control and pesticide management – the safe and judicious management of public-health pesticides to achieve vector control through integrated vector management;
  • safe drinking-water, basic sanitation and hygiene services, and education – the prioritization of improved sanitation combined with delivering preventive chemotherapy and health education to sustain reductions in prevalence of many of these diseases;
  • zoonotic disease management – the application of veterinary sciences and interventions to protect and improve human health (also referred to as veterinary public-health).
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