Marginalized People’s Neglected Diseases
When Pope Francis visited the US in September, he highlighted the international community's responsibility to respond to preventable human suffering. It is our hope that his entreaties will mobilize greater support for efforts to address a major plight affecting marginalized people: neglected tropical diseases.
WASHINGTON, DC – When Pope Francis visited the United States in September, he delivered historic addresses to the US Congress and the United Nations General Assembly. Building on the sentiments of his encyclical letter, Laudato Si’, Francis highlighted the international community’s responsibility to respond to human suffering, such as that faced by refugees and those living in extreme poverty, and called for global solidarity in order to overcome social exclusion and inequality.
The pope’s entreaties should make us turn our attention to every aspect of human suffering, especially those that affect the most marginalized people. One of these is neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). This group of parasitic and related infections – including lymphatic filariasis (or elephantiasis), intestinal worms, and schistosomiasis – is a scourge of poverty. These illnesses afflict approximately 1.4 billion people per year, including more than 500 million children, causing untold pain and suffering and, through lost productivity, contributing to the cycle of poverty.
Over the past decade, the international community has made important progress against NTDs. For example, the generosity of major pharmaceutical companies, which provide medicines free of charge, has enabled treatment programs to be scaled up.