Neglected tropical diseases

Sixty-sixth World Health Assembly likely to examine resolution on all 17 neglected tropical diseases

Geneva | 24 May 2013

Delegates attending the Sixty-sixth World Health Assembly are likely to examine a resolution on all 17 neglected tropical diseases in Geneva tomorrow.

The 17 neglected tropical diseases form a group characterized by their association with poverty and their proliferation in tropical environments where multiple infections in a single individual are common. These diseases affect more than 1 billion people and are caused by a variety of pathogens: viruses, bacteria, protozoa and helminths.

The diseases are termed “neglected” as they exist almost exclusively in the poorest, most marginalized communities, affecting people with little political voice, causing severe pain, permanent disabilities and death.

Overall, neglected tropical diseases pose a devastating obstacle to human health, frustrate the achievement of the health-related Millennium Development Goals, and remain a serious impediment to poverty reduction and overall socioeconomic development.

Until 2005, approaches to overcoming these diseases remained disease-specific, when WHO and its partners analyzed the evidence and best practices and recommended that a common, integrated approach be used for their prevention and control.

WHO has since accumulated evidence to show that the burden caused by many of these diseases can be effectively controlled and, in some cases, eliminated or even eradicated.

But despite remarkable progress achieved over the past decade, challenges remain. Some of these have been identified and efforts should be geared to:

  • sustain support from Member States and partners to ensure the development of new products for prevention, diagnosis and control, continued expansion of services, and strengthening of the health systems
  • create or strengthen expertise in prevention and control of individual diseases and management of their vectors wherever lacking or weak
  • ensure availability of adequate quantities of essential medicines and improve coordination of transportation, customs clearance, storage and other steps in the supply chain
  • initiate studies and calculate cost of expanding implementation activities to help governments, donors and partners to decide how best their contributions can finance expansion of interventions
  • prioritize prevention, control, elimination and eradication in national health, political and development agendas
  • sustain the development and updating of evidence-based norms, standards, policies, guidelines and strategies for prevention, control and elimination
  • collaborate with partners in areas such as resource mobilization and programmatic management in order to implement interventions
  • build national capacity to implement preventive chemotherapy interventions and expand those interventions nationwide
  • intensify national control activities, harmonize strategies and control methods, and ensure access to the safest and most efficient tools in order to maintain technical capacities at national level
  • encourage and support initiatives for the discovery and development of new diagnostics, medicines and pesticides, and to foster innovative research on interventions
  • improve coordination with related sectors such as veterinary public health and safe drinking-water and sanitation
Call for a resolution-background

In 2012 a technical briefing on neglected tropical diseases chaired by the Sixty-fifth World Health Assembly President Assembly’s President highlighted the relevance and priority that communities endemic for those diseases give to their prevention, control, elimination and eradication.

Member States participating in this briefing called for a draft resolution on neglected tropical diseases to be submitted to the Sixty-sixth World Health Assembly for consideration.

WHO’s second report on neglected tropical diseases

In January 2013, WHO published its second report Sustaining the drive to overcome the global impact of neglected tropical diseases which sets milestones for reaching the goals and targets outlined in the roadmap, defines the concepts of eradication and elimination for some of the diseases and expands the concept of universal health coverage as it applies to neglected tropical diseases.

The report also analyses the challenges that remain at country level, identifies the elements needed to strengthen human resources, and underlines the need for cooperation with other sectors such as education, agriculture and veterinary health.

Executive Board recommendation

In January 2013, the Executive Board at its 132nd session invited the Sixty-sixth World Health Assembly to adopt the draft resolution EB132.R7.

Sixty-sixth World Health Assembly highlights - Day 4

Implementation of recommendations of the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children

Delegates approved resolution EB 132.R4. The resolution urges Member States to improve the quality, supply and use of 13 life-saving commodities for women and children, such as contraceptives, antibiotics and oral rehydration salts; streamline the process for their registration; and develop plans to increase demand and facilitate universal access. It calls on WHO to work with countries and partners to achieve these goals.

MERS-CoV (previously known as Novel Coronavirus)

Discussions on Implementation of the International Health Regulations (2005) will restart today. During yesterday’s session, delegates requested an update from the WHO Secretariat and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the recent emergence of MERS-CoV (previously known as Novel Coronavirus).

Technical briefing

A one-day high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly will take place on 23 September 2013 in New York on disability and development. During yesterday’s technical briefing discussed the health sector’s contribution to promote the goals of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the realization of the Millennium Development Goals.

WHA Awards 2013

The five World Health Assembly Awards were also handed over by the Director-General and the President of WHA 66. The recipients are as follows:

  • The 2013 Leon Bernard Foundation Prize was awarded (in absentia) to Dr Teng Shuzhong from the People’s Republic of China.
  • The 2013 Sasakawa Health Prize was awarded to Professor No-Yai Park of the Republic of Korea.
  • The 2013 United Arab Emirates Health Foundation Prize was awarded to Dr Laila Ali Akbar Bastaki from Kuwait.
  • The 2013 State of Kuwait Prize for Research in Health Promotion was awarded to Dr Guiqi Wang of China.
  • The 2013 Dr LEE Jong-wook Memorial Prize for Public Health was awarded jointly to Dr An Dong from People’s Republic of China and the Diabetes Society of Maldives, represented by Ms Aishath Shiruhana.