ENVISION: A World Free of Neglected Tropical Diseases

One-sixth of the worldwide population–more than 1 billion people—suffer from one or more neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). These diseases devastate the world’s most vulnerable populations, striking the almost exclusively poor and powerless people in rural areas and urban slums in low-income countries, with a majority of at-risk populations being women and children.

Seven of the most common NTDs are

  • Lymphatic filariasis

  • Trachoma

  • Onchocerciasis (river blindness)

  • Schistosomiasis

  • Three soil-transmitted helminth infections—hookworm, roundworm, and whipworm

NTDs come hand-in-hand with poverty because they thrive where access to clean water and sanitation is limited. For instance, due to their primary role as caretakers of children, women are more commonly affected by trachoma, which causes pain and blindness during the most productive years of life. NTDs also keep children from living healthy, productive lives, causing malnutrition, reduced school enrollment, and compromised intellectual development. These diseases can kill and frequently impair, blind, or disfigure and have devastating economic consequences for communities due to the loss of productivity and income.

All seven NTDs can be controlled and treated through the administration of drugs to entire populations or mass drug administration, which use safe, single-dose medicines donated by pharmaceutical companies. Treatment of at-risk populations for multiple years can lead to the control or elimination of these diseases in communities and can relieve populations from daily suffering.

According to the World Health Organization, only 62 percent of the global population requiring treatment for at least one NTD is receiving the needed care. By implementing simple periodic interventions, control and elimination of NTDS that cause anemia in children and reproductive age women that in turn prevents malnutrition.

Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), RTI is the lead implementer of ENVISION, a project that aims to empower governments of endemic countries to lead national NTD control programs and scale up the delivery of preventive chemotherapy for the seven most common NTDs.

We set out to improve the evidence base for determining and assessing action to control and eliminate targeted NTDs, increase mass drug administration coverage among at-risk populations in endemic communities, and strengthen national capacity for implementing integrated NTD control and elimination programs.

Among the major implementing and coordinating partners supporting NTD control and elimination, ENVISION plays a lead coordinating role to ensure that gaps in disease mapping are being adequately funded, whether through USAID funding, other funding, or a combination of sources.

ENVISION’s efforts are focused on supporting countries to scale up their mass drug administration efforts to 100% geographic coverage for at-risk populations, largely being women and children, and examining program performance in reaching those at risk and living in areas targeted for preventive chemotherapy.

Through ENVISION, we work closely with NTD program managers to help countries measure the impact of their programs and make important determinations about the continuation or discontinuation of treatment and other complementary interventions.

The ENVISION project develops, disseminates, and provides training and technical assistance on the tools and resources necessary for effective NTD program implementation. ENVISION also supports the implementation of several training courses to strengthen the capacity of national NTD programs.

As more countries prepare for their final push to control and eliminate NTDs, our efforts will shift. We will target the hardest-to-reach and most vulnerable communities, being women and children, and will conduct surveys to assess impact, and help countries complete the World Health Organization’s certification process, which confirms the successful elimination of these diseases.