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Neglected tropical diseases and the sustainable development goals: an urgent call for action from the front line
  1. Ayenew Addisu1,
  2. Wim Adriaensen2,
  3. Arega Balew3,
  4. Mekuria Asfaw4,
  5. Ermias Diro5,
  6. Amadou Garba Djirmay6,
  7. Desalegn Gebree7,
  8. Getahun Seid8,
  9. Hailemariam Begashaw9,
  10. Anthony D Harries10,11,
  11. Abera Hirpa Adugna7,
  12. Zeleke Ayalew Jejaw1,
  13. Edward Mberu Kamau12,
  14. Tigist Kelbo4,
  15. Marcel Manzi13,
  16. Dana Medebo Daniel14,
  17. Ashok Moloo6,
  18. Piero Olliaro12,
  19. Philip Owiti15,
  20. John C Reeder12,
  21. Mbazi Senkoro16,
  22. Kuda Takarinda17,
  23. Robert Terry18,
  24. Collins Timire17,
  25. Samson Tucho19,
  26. Hannock Tweya10,20,
  27. Yeshanehe Wendemagegn21,
  28. Kristien Verdonck2,
  29. Florian Vogt2,
  30. Saskia van Henten2,
  31. Johan van Griensven22,
  32. Bekele Worku23,
  33. Maria Zolfo2,
  34. Rony Zachariah12
  35. Ethiopia SORT IT Neglected Tropical Diseases Group
  1. 1 Medical parasitology and internal medicine, University of Gondar, Gondar, Ethiopia
  2. 2 Tropical Diseases, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium
  3. 3 Internal medicine, Yekatit 12 Hospital Medical College, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  4. 4 Research and training, Arba Minch University, Arba Minch, Ethiopia
  5. 5 Internal Medicine, University of Gondar, Gondar, Ethiopia
  6. 6 Neglected Tropical Diseases, World Health Organisation, Geneva, Switzerland
  7. 7 Malaria, neglected tropical and zoonotic diseases, Ethiopian Public Health Institute, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  8. 8 Boru Meda Hospital, Amhara Regional Health Bureau, Amhara, Ethiopia
  9. 9 Health programme, The Jimmy Carter Center, Addis Abeba, Ethiopia
  10. 10 Center for Operational Research, International Union Against TB and Lung Disease, Paris, France
  11. 11 Tropical medicine, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  12. 12 Research for implementation, Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, Geneva, Switzerland
  13. 13 Operational research (LUXOR), Médecins Sans Frontierès (LuxOR), Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
  14. 14 Institute of health, Jimma University, Jimma, Ethiopia
  15. 15 Center for operational research, International Union Against TB and Lung Disease, Nairobi, Kenya
  16. 16 Medical research, National Institute for Medical Research, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
  17. 17 Center for operational research, International Union Against TB and Lung Disease, Harare, Zimbabwe
  18. 18 Research Policy, Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, Geneva, Switzerland
  19. 19 Clinical monitoring, KalaCORE Program, Amigos Da Silva, Addis Abeba, Ethiopia
  20. 20 Monitoring and evaluation, Light House Trust, Paris, France
  21. 21 Dermatology and Veneriology, Bahar Dar University, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia
  22. 22 Clinical Sciences, Instituut voor Tropische Geneeskunde, Antwerpen, Belgium
  23. 23 Malaria and neglected tropical diseases, World Health Organisation Country Office, Addis Abeba, Ethiopia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rony Zachariah; zachariahr{at}

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Summary box

  • The international community has pledged through the Sustainable Development Goals to eliminate neglected tropical diseases by 2030.

  • Authors from 19 institutions around the world call for urgent reflection and a change in mind-set to garner support and hasten progress towards achieving this fast approaching target.

  • They advocate for an empowering approach that will propel political momentum, milestones and targets for accountability, new science in drug development and increased funding particularly from G20 countries.

“We must become bigger than we have been: more courageous, greater in spirit, larger in outlook.”

Emperor Haile Selassie

It was in the city of Gondar in Ethiopia, one of the highest burden countries for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)1 and currently home to 16 to 20 recognised NTDs (table 1), that a unanimous desire was expressed by scientists, policy makers and health workers from around the world (the forum was an operational research training on NTDs organised by the Structured Operational Research and Training Initiative (SORT IT). SORT IT is a global partnership coordinated by the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) hosted at the WHO., for urgent reflection on how to garner support and hasten the pace towards achieving the fast approaching Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of eliminating NTDs by 2030.2 Concerns, raised by the group are articulated below:

View this table:
Table 1

The 20 neglected tropical diseases recognised by the WHO*

First, there is the term ‘Neglected Tropical Diseases’, coined by Peter Hotez and colleagues in 2003 with the noble intention of propelling political momentum, catalysing donor funding and making quantum shifts in research and development (R&D).3 The question today is whether designating a specific group of diseases as being ‘neglected’ does not carry with it a negative and disempowering connotation. Populations affected by NTDs already face neglect by being …

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