Do you know which diseases affect half a billion children worldwide?

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are the most common diseases of the world’s poor (those living on less than $1.25 a day). They are spread by insects like mosquitoes and flies, or through contact with contaminated water or soil and disable and debilitate one in six people worldwide, including half a billion children. Infected adults lose their capacity to work: poverty is aggravated.

It is encouraging that these diseases are drawing increasing attention from all concerned starting from policy-makers to programme managers. There has been a shift in approach from a disease-specific approach to an integrated one in carrying out interventions with improved tools to afford maximum benefits to the marginalised communities. 

Currently the emphasis has been laid on intensified case management, vector control, availability of safe drinking water, basic sanitation and veterinary public health as five public health strategies to overcome NTDs.

India contributes a substantial burden of neglected diseases like lymphatic filariasis, visceral leishmaniasis, hookworm infection and leprosy. Most of the diseases are implemented under the National Vector-borne Diseases Control Programme and it requires a great momentum to adopt integrated approaches to prevent and control NTDs, promote partnerships, develop expertise and build collaborations with other organisations along with political commitment for implementation of the components laid down in the World Health Organization roadmap or global plan to combat the NTDs.

The way forward to reach the destination laid out in the World Health Organization (WHO) roadmap consists of sustaining the drive to overcome the global impact of NTDs in promoting integrated and innovative approaches in dealing with NTDs, strengthening the local capacities and expertise to implement new or improved tools, improving coordination within the government and with other organisations, encouraging the role of civil societies in the implementation of the roadmap and ensuring human rights of the people affected by the diseases.

Dr Subbanna Jonnalagadda, Deputy Chief Executive, Lepra in India

This piece is extracted from an article originally published in Health Action 

Children affected by leprosy

The fact that leprosy is being detected in children as young as three tells us that the disease has not been eradicated, like many people think.


Our current digital data* suggests that in our India projects one in twenty new cases of leprosy that we detect are found in children. The worst rates of childhood leprosy present themselves in the state of Bihar where children make up to a fifth of newly diagnosed cases. 

Most of these cases are detected early with 82% of children being diagnosed within 12 months of developing symptoms. While this early detection significantly reduces the chance of a permanent disability having set in, one in six of the children we diagnosed last year already presented with an irreversible disability. This is dependent on the area.


In Bangladesh, our most recent data* shows that 4.5% of all new diagnosed leprosy cases are children. Out of these 25% are girls. In our projects, all of the children detected were done so within 12 months of developing symptoms which significantly reduces the chance of that child having to live with a permanent disability. Indeed none of the children detected through our project developed any disability.

*This data can vary depending on the region.