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The case for investing in neglected tropical diseases

© Jane Barlow/ PA

© Jane Barlow/ PA

Why invest in neglected tropical diseases?

Investing in NTD programmes creates a ripple effect in society. It leads to better education, health, and employment outcomes, and transforms lives and communities. It also helps to reduce gender inequity, stigma, and preventable mortality and morbidity.

For individuals, it means a life without fear of being disabled or losing a livelihood from preventable disease.

Investing in NTDs is a global development success story

Investing in NTDs is a global development success story. So far, as of July 2024, 51 countries have eliminated at least one NTD, showing progress is possible.

In 2022, Togo became the first country in the world to eliminate four diseases – and all of them NTDs. In 2020, 600 million fewer people required interventions against NTDs than in 2010.

47 countries

WHO Global report on NTDs, 2023

Best-buy in global health

When there are so many intractable issues in global health, investments in NTDs can offer wins for donors and for affected communities.

Investment is seen as a development 'best-buy' and yields significant ROI. An investment case for ending NTDs estimated that preventive chemotherapy brought an estimated net benefit to affected individuals of about US$ 25 per US$ 1 invested.

NTDs affect predominantly regions and populations with the greatest needs for development. The link between tackling NTDs and development has been recognized through the SDGs. In 2016, NTDs were added into the SDG 3.3, as epidemics to be ended by 2030.

Reducing the disease burden due to NTDs can also contribute to alleviating poverty (Goal 1) and hunger (Goal 2), promoting quality education (Goal 4), improving gender equity (Goal 5) and reducing inequality (Goal 10). By building human capital, it will ultimately contribute to economic growth (Goal 8).

A recent study by Deloitte, commissioned by the END Fund, showed that Nigeria could gain approximately $19 billion in increased productivity

Reducing poverty, leading to better education and employment outcomes - a case study

An impact study by Hamory et al. (2021) looked at the economic impacts of deworming school children in Kenya over 20 years, demonstrating the effects of treating soil-transmitted helminth infections (STH) at an early age.

STH affects around one in four people worldwide, most prevalent in the world’s poorest countries. They have adverse health and nutritional consequences for children, including stunted growth, weakness, and anaemia. School-based deworming is a safe, cost-effective policy with common deworming drugs costing less than US$1 per year per child.

The study showed many benefits for those who received deworming as children including:

  • Children were more likely to attend school and improve their long-term cognitive function, raising future earning potential by up to 20%.
  • Individuals saw substantial increases in their hourly earnings.
  • Deworming treatment had a positive impact on how much households had to spend (consumption expenditure).
  • There was a significant increase in hours worked, particularly in non-agricultural employment.
  • Deworming led to larger human capital gains among older individuals.

Nyirangaruye, 15, on taking medication to prevent intestinal worm diseases:
“I remember before we didn’t have this type of medication, we used to fall asleep in class and sometimes, we’d even vomit… If I finish my studies, I’d like to be a teacher. I would like to help the children of my country have more knowledge.”

A world more prepared for pandemics

To prepare effectively for future pandemics, health systems need to be strong and responsive to the health needs of their populations. NTD programmes strengthen institutions and catalyse lasting transformations in health systems.

When we have stronger health systems, and stronger communities, deadly but curable diseases have less room for manoeuvre.

Intelligent investment up front in tackling existing epidemics, like NTDs, can save billions down the road.

IMG_2646 (002)

However, sustainable financing is needed

For some time, a lack of resources has been a significant barrier to the control, elimination, and eradication of NTDs.

This challenge has only been intensified by COVID-19 which has caused severe delays and disruption to NTD programmes (NTD services were the second most disrupted health services from COVID-19), as well as a massive repurposing and diversion of resources.

Sustainable financing is urgently needed to save lives now, get back on track and ensure that past gains are not lost.

Find out why investing in NTDs is a win for everyone

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Invest in neglected tropical diseases

There are many ways to invest in NTDs. To discuss opportunities, email stuart@unitingtocombatntds.org