Neglected tropical diseases

Strategic and Technical Meeting
on Intensified Control of Tropical Diseases

Berlin | 18-20 April 2005

Infectious and parasitic diseases

Infectious and parasitic diseases – most of which are preventable and/or treatable – remain the primary cause of death worldwide. International attention is currently focused on HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, as well as on global health security. However, many other chronically endemic tropical diseases, which have a very significant negative impact on the lives of poor populations, are still very much neglected in the global public health agenda.

Most of these tropical diseases affect almost exclusively poor and marginalized populations living in settings where poverty is widespread and resources, or access to livelihood opportunities, are scarce. These diseases have an enormous impact on individuals, families and entire communities in developing countries in terms of burden of disease, loss of productivity, aggravation of poverty and the high cost of long-term care. They constitute a serious obstacle to socioeconomic development and quality of life at all levels. Improved control and prevention of such diseases would be a major contribution to poverty alleviation and in reaching the Millennium Development Goals. Despite the fact that many low-cost and effective interventions are available to control most of these diseases, the majority of affected populations do not have access to them.

Although the list is not exhaustive, WHO's intensified efforts will focus on the following diseases: Chagas' disease, dengue, leishmaniasis, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis, trachoma and trypanosomiasis. For most of these diseases, effective tools and proven public health strategies exist.

Recently, WHO has led several initiatives to fight such diseases. Some of these programmes have pioneered new global and national partnerships, in some cases involving the private sector, to deliver specific interventions. The basic aims of such programmes are:

  • to provide access to treatment for poor and marginalized populations;
  • to strengthen existing health systems and their long-term capacity for preventing, screening, diagnosing and treating these diseases;
  • to introduce innovative delivery channels to extend the health system's capacity for the packaging and delivery of a series of simple health interventions to those most in need;
  • to develop community-based surveillance systems;
  • to contribute to the development and dissemination of new tools for supporting surveillance and national programme management.

Objectives of the meeting


  • current extent and impact of tropical diseases;
  • existing programme delivery mechanisms;
  • current tools for the prevention, control and elimination of tropical diseases;
  • the need for accelerating tool development and implementation research.

make recommendations for action on

  • "rapid impact interventions";
  • exploiting the preventive power of vector control;
  • improved surveillance and quality care in resource-limited settings.