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India winning against some Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDS)

Amidst all the gloom and challenges associated with public health, there are also areas where India has been achieving success. One such area has been the fight against some Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).

NTDs refer to a group of bacterial and parasitic diseases that are spread by insects like mosquitoes and flies, or by contact with contaminated soil or water. The World Health Organisation, national health departments and individual drug companies have for decades mounted campaigns against these diseases. The 2012 London Declaration brought together national governments, global health and development organisations and pharmaceutical companies in a common aim — the control, elimination or eradication of 10 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2020.  According to Don Bundy, Senior Advisor on Neglected Infectious Diseases at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation of the 10 diseases targeted by the declaration, five are manageable through mass administration of safe and effective drugs.Successes are being achieved against each of these diseases, which include trachoma and onchocerciasis (river blindness), the two leading causes of blindness worldwide, and lymphatic filariasis (LF or elephantiasis).

India has been conducting a demonstrably successful campaign against LF. In the National Filaria Week (NFW), free and safe medication that both prevents and treats LF was distributed to people living in those districts that are still identified as endemic for the disease.In the 2015, the number of such districts was 137—a huge drop from the 255 such districts when the consolidated campaign first began a decade ago. Improvements are also evident at the state level. In my home state of Odisha, the population that has been estimated to be at risk has dropped from 26.2 million people across 20 districts in 1996 to 11.9 million people in 10 districts in 2015.

According to this article, in order to achieve  total eradication of LF from India, there are three things, the country must keep in mind:

  1. Sustained progress toward LF elimination depends not just on achieving health-related goals, but also achieving environmental and sanitation goals.
  2. As India nears the curbing of transmission of new LF infections, the focus must turn to providing support and rehabilitation for those living with advanced stages of the disease.
  3. The mass administration of the filaria drug is important not just because it controls LF, but also because it helps fight soil-transmitted helminths (i.e. intestinal worms).

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