Prelims level : Medicine and Pharmaceuticals. Mains level : GS-II Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector or Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
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Why in News?

  • January 30, 2020 is the First-Ever World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day(World NTD Day).

What is Neglected Tropical Disease?

  • Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of tropical infections which are common in low-income populations in developing regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
  • They are caused by a variety of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, protozoa and Helminths.

How these Diseases are Spread?

  • Infections are caused by unsafe water, poor housing conditions and poor sanitation.
  • Children are the most vulnerable to these diseases, which kill, impair or permanently disable millions of people every year, often resulting in life-long physical pain and social stigmatization.

How they can be Controlled?

  • Many neglected tropical diseases can be prevented, eliminated or even eradicated with improved access to existing safe and cost-effective tools.
  • Control relies on simple interventions that can be carried out by non-specialists — for example schoolteachers, village heads and local volunteers — in community-based preventive action.

Why are some Tropical Diseases called “Neglected”?

  • The people who are most affected by these diseases are often the poorest populations, living in remote, rural areas, urban slums or Conflict Zones.
  • Neglected tropical diseases persist under conditions of poverty and are concentrated almost exclusively in impoverished populations in the developing world.

What are the Lacking Features?

  • A comprehensive policy to foster research and InnovationIn drug discovery, diagnostics, and vaccine development in neglected tropical diseases is lacking.
  • While political intent and will are expressed in a few, Clear Operational Plans and Funding Mechanisms are not specified. Consequently, follow-up action is patchy or absent.
  • No institutional mechanism exists at a national levelto identify gaps in neglected diseases research, set priorities, liaise with research institutions, or monitor research output.
  • There is often no coordination between the various funding and research bodiesto prioritise the research agenda and Minimise Duplication.

What are the Challenges Faced?

  • Lack of reliable statistics and unpronounceable names of diseases have all hampered efforts to bring them out of the shadows.
  • Neglected tropical diseases affect more than 1 billion people, primarily poor populations living in tropical and subtropical climates.
  • They are frequently clustered together geographically and individuals are often afflicted with more than one parasite or infection.
  • More than 70% of countries and territories that report the presence of neglected tropical diseases are low-income or lower Middle-Income Economies.

Government Initiatives on Neglected Diseases:

  • The National Health Policy (2017)sets an ambition to stimulate innovation to meet health needs and ensure that new drugs are affordable for those who need them most, but it does not specifically tackle neglected diseases.
  • The National Policy on Treatment of Rare Diseases (2018)includes infectious tropical diseases and identifies a need to support research on treatments for rare diseases. It has not yet prioritised diseases and areas for research funding or how innovation would be supported.

 Need of Hour:

  • A Unified Programme on Neglected Diseases Encompassing Research and elimination measuresis likely to have a greater impact in prioritising the matter in the health agenda and streamlining efforts towards disease elimination.
  • Creating an Enabling Environment for Research and Innovationwill be crucial if India is to achieve the target set in sustainable development goal 3.3 to end epidemics of neglected tropical diseases by 2030.
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