Global fund sought to fight diseases of ‘bottom billion’

March 26th, 2008 - 12:18 pm ICT by admin  

New York, March 26 (IANS) Leaders of the G8 countries have been urged to establish a new financing mechanism to combat neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that afflict the world’s poorest - or the bottom billion. A ‘Global Fund to Fight Neglected Tropical Diseases’, said Hotez Sabin of George Washington University, would “satisfy an urgent need to support NTD control and elimination”.

NTDs such as intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, elephantiasis and river blindness represent the most common infections of the world’s poorest.

They are a major reason why the world’s poorest cannot escape the vicious, downward spiral of poverty.

Writing in the latest issue of the open-access journal PloS, Sabin and his colleagues said: “We are now in a unique position to control or eliminate some of the highest burden NTDs through integrated use of donated drugs.”

The mass administration of such drugs just once a year has been the cornerstone of global projects aimed at tackling several of the NTDs, and the launch of a dedicated fund to scale up these activities would be “one of the most cost-effective and urgently needed approaches for sustainable poverty reduction”.

A blueprint for such a funding mechanism already exists: the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, established in 2002, has attracted $4.7 billion in financing for these three diseases.

Hotez and colleagues argue that the mandate of this fund could easily be expanded to include NTDs.

Countries burdened by NTDs could apply to the new fund for financing for NTD control efforts, and an expert board could vet the applications.

The G8 summit, they said, presents an opportunity for leaders to consider earmarking specific funds for NTD control.

“A comparatively modest amount of funds - in the range of $2 billion in total over five years - should be deposited and earmarked for treatment programmes targeting the poorest populations in the poorest countries.”

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