Neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, are parasitic and bacterial diseases that can cause severe pain and long-term disability. In 2015, more than 1.5 billion of the world’s poorest people needed treatment or care for NTDs. That’s more than HIV, TB, and malaria combined. They cause severe pain, long-term disability, and are the cause of death for more than 170,000 people per year.
In 2006, President George W. Bush launched an initiative to combat NTDs that was implemented by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. The program initially focused on five countries (Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Uganda) but ultimately expanded to support 31 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean.
So… ten years later, can we say the program worked? Yes! Over the past decade, USAID and its partners have delivered more than 1.6 billion treatments to more than 743 million people! According to USAID, “the U.S. is charting a new course for people, families, and communities around the world, making it possible to imagine a future free from those diseases.”
For example, as a result of the support provided by USAID — which is less than 1% of the total U.S. budget — 140 million people now live in areas where they are no longer at risk of acquiring lymphatic filariasis, a painful and profoundly disfiguring parasitic infection transmitted by mosquitoes.
Here’s another example: Trachoma is the leading infectious cause of preventable blindness. Today, thanks to USAID-supported interventions, 65 million people live in areas where trachoma is no longer a public health problem! In fact, by 2020, 70% of USAID-supported countries are on track to stop treatment for both lymphatic filariasis and trachoma!
Preventing and controlling NTDs is crucial to ending extreme poverty in the next two decades. That’s yet another reason why protecting the U.S. foreign aid budget is so important. Aid works — and we shouldn’t allow the progress we’ve made to stall now. Call your elected official today and ask him or her to #DefendAid.