Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Day

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    • Neglected tropical disease day is observed every year on 30th January. It was declared in the 74th World Health Assembly (2021).
      • The proposal to recognise the day was floated by the United Arab Emirates. It was adopted unanimously by the delegates.

    About

    • Definition:
      • NTDs is an umbrella term that refers to 20 medically diverse, communicable diseases that flourish in impoverished environments, tend to coexist, cause significant morbidity and/or mortality and can be battled using effective methods.  
    • Effect:
      • NTDs are known to cause permanent disabilities, impact mental and emotional health and well-being and affect over 1.7 billion people across the world.
    • Examples:
      • A parasitic NTD called Lymphatic Filariasis, colloquially referred to in Hindi as hathipaon or Elephant Feet, is the second-leading cause of permanent disability in the world.
        • It attacks the human lymphatic system and can cause painful swelling of limbs (lymphoedema) and genitalia (hydrocele) among others. 
        • Disfigurement of breast and genitalia are common.
        • It is endemic in 328 districts across 21 states / Union territories.
      • Another parasitic NTD, Visceral Leishmaniasis, commonly known as Kala-Azar or Black Fever, is transmitted by sandflies and is fatal if left untreated.
        • Kala-Azar is endemic in 54 districts across four states of India.

     

    Image Courtesy: Research Gate 

    Impact of COVID

    • COVID:
      • In more ways than one, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that has hogged headlines for the past two years, is akin to the experiences of those at risk of being infected by Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).
    • Halted Programmes:
      • COVID-19 led to the temporary halting of public health programmes in several countries. Lymphatic Filariasis and Kala-Azar elimination programmes in India also faced disruptions.
      • To face the challenge, India adapted, innovated and bounced back with renewed vigour.

     Initiatives by Government of India

    • The Government of India is 100 percent committed to ending NTDs like Lymphatic Filariasis and Kala-Azar, in line with global elimination and control targets.
    • Preventive methods like Mass Drug Administration (MDA) rounds are periodically deployed in endemic areas during which anti-filarial medicines are provided free-of-cost to at-risk communities.
    • Vector-control measures like Indoor Residual Spraying rounds are undertaken in endemic areas to prevent sandfly breeding. 
    • The government also supports morbidity management and disability prevention for those affected by lymphoedema and hydrocele.
    • State and central governments have also introduced wage compensation schemes for those suffering from Kala-Azar and its sequela (a condition which is the consequence of a previous disease or injury) known as Post-Kala Azar Dermal Leishmaniasis.
    • India is implementing both oral administration of miltefosine and indoor residual spraying, has established intersectoral coordination with the National Rural Health Mission and with the housing development sector.
    • The National Rabies Control Programme provides vaccination to stray dogs and free vaccines through Government Hospitals all over the country.
      • It was established as the Integrated National Rabies Control Programme under the ‘One Health Approach’.
    • The National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), is a comprehensive programme for the prevention and control of vector-borne diseases.
    • The National Leprosy Eradication Programme was launched with the goal of elimination of leprosy as a public health problem.
    • The National Health Policy was established in 2017, setting an ambition to stimulate innovation to meet the health needs and ensure that new drugs are affordable for those who need them most.
      • However, it does not specifically tackle NTDs.
    • The National Policy on Treatment of Rare Diseases focuses on identifying and researching treatments for rare diseases and infectious NTDs.
    • NTD partners in India, Global Health Strategies (GHS), The LeprosyMission Trust India (TLMTI) and National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), will adopt an integrated approach and support each other in undertaking several activities to galvanise visibility on the issue.
    • India is at the cusp of eliminating Kala-Azar, with 99 per cent Kala-Azar endemic blocks having achieved the elimination target.

    Way Ahead

    • Innovations like using bowls to distribute medicines from a safe distance ensured COVID-appropriate behaviour on ground, even as dynamic dashboards highlighted areas of concern in real time and prompted improved planning and implementation.
    • India is poised to emerge as a global leader in the battle against NTDs, but success in this decade will demand bolder action.
    • As India stands firm on its commitment to eliminate NTDs, multi-stakeholder and cross-sectoral partnerships and collaboration will continue to play a central role in sustaining the momentum gained.
    • An integrated approach to improving access to quality healthcare, water, sanitation, hygiene, addressing climate change and ensuring gender equity, mental health and well-being must lie at the core of eliminating these diverse NTDs.

    Sources: DTE