‘Pushing back neglected tropical diseases in Africa’
Using community health systems to deliver treatments donated by the private sector, over 80 million people a year are now protected from river blindness in Africa. Fighting this disease, which causes much suffering and eventual loss of sight, was one of the World Bank's first efforts in health, together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners.
River blindness, which gets its name from the way it is transmitted-through flies that breed near fast-flowing rivers-has been controlled in large parts of West Africa, allowing families to return to 25 million hectares of arable land, enough to grow crops to feed 17 million people. The disease has been eliminated in several endemic areas, including transmission zones in Senegal and some areas of Mali, where preventive medication is now no longer required. Hundreds of millions of children and adults in Africa live at risk of disfigurement, impaired development, blindness, and even death from seven major preventable so-called neglected tropical diseases, including river blindness, elephantiasis, tra- choma and various types of intestinal parasites, said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim at the opening of a November 16-18 conference in Washington DC: United to Combat NTDs: Translating the London Declaration into Action. "It's not that these diseases really have been neglected.
It's the people who suffer from them who have been neglected," Dr. Kim said. "Protecting poor people from preventable diseases that cause acute suffering remains at the heart of our mission to end poverty and boost shared prosperity." Convened by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the US Agency for International Development, the UK's Department for International Development, the World Bank, the World Health Organization and the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filarisis (GAELF), the Washington conference was a follow-up to a London meeting in January 2012. At that meeting, the private sector, civil society organizations, development partners and health experts agreed on a common vision to control or eliminate the world's 10 major preventable neglected tropical diseases.