On Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) initiated a campaign to tackle 20 diseases affecting the world’s poorest people, aimed at preventing the effects of Covid-19 on healthcare systems from erasing recent progress.
In the developed world, many of the twenty neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) ranging from leprosy to rabies have been eradicated, but they together affect more than 1.7 billion people in developing countries.
In November, governments formally endorsed the 10-year roadmap to tackle NTDs, committing to continuing initiatives that over the last decade have seen at least one such disease eradicated in 42 countries.
But the initiative comes as attempts to alleviate diseases such as leprosy, elephantiasis, intestinal worms and rabies are being thwarted by a global pandemic that is forcing healthcare systems already stretched to their breaking point.
“The one thing they (Covid-19 and NTDs) have in common is that they disproportionately affect the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world,” Mwele Malecela of the WHO said in a Thomson Reuters Foundation opinion piece.