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USAID's NTD Program
USAID's NTD Program

About the Neglected Tropical Disease Program

  Photo of two boys standing in a marsh.
  Two boys stand in a pool of water near their home in Uganda. Standing water and irrigation streams are home to the snails that carry Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia, one of the seven diseases targeted by USAID's NTD Program.
Source: Andrea Peterson

Why Focus on NTDs?

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) represent a group of diseases that causes significant morbidity and mortality worldwide but have until recently received limited attention from the affluent regions of the world. More than 1 billion people – one-sixth of the world’s population – suffer from one or more NTDs. These diseases affect the world’s most vulnerable populations, almost exclusively poor and powerless people living in rural areas and urban slums of low-income countries. Their impact on individuals and communities is devastating. Many of them cause severe disfigurement and disabilities, including blindness.

NTDs coexist with poverty because they thrive where access to clean water and sanitation are limited and people live without protection from disease vectors. The NTDs also are recognized as a contributor to poverty since they can impair intellectual development in children, reduce school enrollment, and hinder economic productivity by limiting the ability of infected individuals to work.

Fortunately, seven of the most prevalent NTDs can be controlled using preventive chemotherapy that has been proven safe and effective and that can be delivered in an integrated manner through mass drug administration. These diseases include schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis, lymphatic filariasis, trachoma, and three soil-transmitted helminthes, commonly known as hookworm, roundworm, and whipworm.

Preventive chemotherapy is the provision of single dose medication to all eligible individuals in an affected community at regular intervals, generally once or twice a year. Due to the strong safety profile of these medicines, the World Health Organization endorses their administration by non-medically trained personnel, such as community volunteers and teachers, without the need of individual diagnosis.

Significant quantities of the drugs needed to treat or prevent these NTDs are donated by pharmaceutical companies and are valued at hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

USAID Support for NTDs

The U.S. Congress recognized the opportunity for the U.S. Government to make a significant impact on these diseases and created an NTD earmark in 2006.

This major step raised the profile of NTD control on the U.S. global health agenda and stimulated other high-level global commitments to NTDs, including a 2008 G8 commitment. The declaration by G8 countries stated that "… including through the mass administration of drugs, we will be able to reach at least 75% of the people affected by certain major neglected tropical diseases in the most affected countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, bearing in mind the WHO Plan. With sustained action for 3-5 years, this would enable a very significant reduction of the current burden with the elimination of some of these diseases."

This decision to target support for integrated NTD programs was based on the convergence of several critical factors.

  • Safe and effective treatment strategies for each of the diseases were available.
  • Most of the necessary drugs were being donated through major contributions of several pharmaceutical companies.
  • Programs to target these diseases could be implemented and scaled up by disease- endemic countries with limited technical and financial inputs from donors.
  • The drugs for these diseases could be delivered through similar platforms at country level through an "integrated approach."

USAID support for NTDs focuses on the scale-up of efficient and sustained preventive chemotherapy in an integrated manner, so control of all and elimination of some of these diseases can be achieved.

Rationale for integration of vertical NTD control programs:

The U.S. Government has strong commitment and bipartisan support for the fight against NTDs. In 2008, former President Bush announced a new NTD initiative and pledged to make additional resources available to deliver integrated NTD treatments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Shortly after taking office, President Obama announced a new comprehensive global health strategy that will further expand efforts for tackling neglected tropical diseases, and includes a new focus on elimination of some of the targeted diseases.
  • Increases cost-efficiencies.
  • Allows greater numbers of people to be treated.
  • Improves the potential for sustainable programs.

With support for NTDs, USAID has become a global leader in large-scale implementation of integrated treatment programs for NTDs. Over the past 5 years, the U.S. Government has leveraged $3.1 billion in donated medicines, resulting in the delivery of more than 584.6 million treatments to approximately 257.9 million people through our integrated programs.

NTDs in the Global Health Initiative

On May 5, 2009, President Barack Obama announced the Global Health Initiative (GHI), a new comprehensive global health strategy to address some of the most pressing global health challenges. Along with enhanced efforts to address child and maternal health and family planning, President Obama expressed strong support for tackling NTDs.


USAID’s NTD goals under GHI:

  • Reduce the prevalence of seven NTDs by 50 percent among 70 percent of affected population.

Contribute to:

  • Elimination of onchocerciasis in the Americas by 2016.
  • Elimination of lymphatic filariasis globally by 2020.
  • Elimination of blinding trachoma globally by 2020.
  • Elimination of leprosy.

Making an Impact

USAID’s highly successful NTD Program is making a large-scale, cost-effective contribution to the global effort to reduce the economic and epidemiological burden of NTDs.

As of 2012, the NTD Program has delivered more than 584.6 million treatments to approximately 257.9 million people.

Cumulative and yearly treatments provided and persons treated from 2007-2012.
Note: this is preliminary data for the first half of FY2012 and will be finalized at the end of FY2012.