Financial Times | Budget cuts hinder efforts to eliminate neglected tropical diseases
The UK’s department for international development initially championed the mass drug administration approach to tackle neglected tropical diseases, boosting the country’s reputation as a global leader in providing a range of high-impact interventions at low cost. But the programme was scrapped this year after it was taken over by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the UK government cut its aid budget from 0.7 to 0.5 per cent of gross national income. With existing donated drugs for MDA expiring, time is running out for their use — just as the annual peak season for infections gears up. Without fresh money to support their distribution, pharmaceutical companies are reluctant to donate fresh stocks.
“The crisis has shown up the structural faults in the system,” says Johannes Waltz, who oversees donations of praziquantel, provided by Merck of Germany, to treat schistosomiasis. He points to particular concerns in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe. “We can’t assess the losses and the stocks without any timely reporting,” he explains.