Addressing diseases of poverty: An initiative to reduce the unacceptable burden of neglected tropical diseases in the Asia Pacific Region.
Many countries in the Asia Pacific region continue to show impressive economic growth and development despite the turmoil facing much of the world, raising the standard of living for millions of people. However, amid this growth, more than a billion people remain left behind because of widening disparities and unequal access to opportunities for health, development and prosperity. These are the people who are most vulnerable to diseases resulting from poverty, including neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Common NTDs trap communities in a cycle of malnutrition and anaemia, poor learning, lower productivity and poor maternal and child health outcomes and, depending on the type of NTD, complications and disabilities such as blindness, swelling of limbs, organ failure or brain damage. NTD elimination and control efforts are recognized as one of the most cost-effective interventions in global health today. In addition to preventing and reducing disease and disability, NTD elimination and control efforts help maximize the impact of cross-sectoral programmes. These programmes include education, water and sanitation, food safety, nutrition and climate change adaptation. It is critical to work across sectors and leverage integrated approaches at a time when donors, policy-makers and programme managers must improve efficiency to achieve scale and impact with limited resources. This publication underscores the importance of tackling NTDs in order to help alleviate suffering, reduce poverty and ensure the continued social and economic growth of the region. As a joint production by the World Health Organization Regional Offices for South-East Asia and the Western Pacific, the Asian Development Bank and the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases at the Sabin Vaccine Institute, this publication highlights the need for greater crosssectoral partnership and additional investments. The Asia Pacific region has achieved remarkable success in tackling these debilitating diseases under the leadership of governments in endemic countries and with the support of partners worldwide. Lymphatic filariasis has been eliminated in three countries and 10 others are awaiting verification of elimination or are in the surveillance stage before verification by 2016. WHO targets for deworming school-age children have been reached in five countries, and trachoma elimination is expected to be achieved in six countries by 2016.