Statement |

WHO 146th EB -13 (EB146/14) – Neglected tropical diseases

Julien Potet
Neglected Tropical Disease Policy Advisor
MSF Access Campaign

MSF Statement: Agenda item 13 (EB146/14)) – Neglected tropical diseases

WHO Executive Board's Special Session on Ebola UN Photo/Christopher Black

Speaker: Julien Potet

Médecins Sans Frontières acknowledges the progress made against Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). There is, however, still a long way to go before NTDs become diseases of the past.

MSF is glad that more conditions with a high burden among the rural poor, including snakebite envenoming, are now addressed by the WHO-NTD department. Similarly other key neglected conditions, like noma or brucellosis, should be given more attention; while the WHO-NTD department cannot reasonably address all NTDs, it could raise more awareness on the NTDs that it doesn’t have the capacity to tackle directly.

The progress report calls for more integration of NTDs with other health programmes. Whereas MSF has historically relied on disease-specific specialised teams for human African trypanosomiasis or visceral leishmaniasis, we are now trying to integrate diagnosis and treatment with other services in polyvalent clinics and hospitals. This is not an easy task and if hastily implemented, integration could result in more neglect. 

Accurate diagnostic tests are desperately needed in the field and would greatly facilitate integration between NTDs and other health services. For example, a significant proportion of persistent fevers of unknown origin in resource-limited countries are likely caused by NTDs, often zoonotic diseases. In the absence of sensitive, specific user-friendly tests, most of these cases remain under-recognised and untreated. Investment is needed to develop such tests.

Finally, more funding for NTD control in the field is needed. Drug donations alone can’t solve the problem. MSF is concerned that the limited financial support for the recent WHO strategy against the burden of snakebite is a bad omen for the upcoming WHO-NTD Roadmap 2021-2030. Both endemic countries and donors should further prioritise needs of the poorest, while exploring new ways of supporting R&D that don’t rely on market based approaches to development of new, better tools that neglected patients urgently need.