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The Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Programme

The Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Programme provides technical orientation, support and guidance to Member States in the WHO African Region in order to contribute to the accelerated prevention, control, elimination and eradication of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).


An African region free of neglected tropical diseases.


Accelerate the reduction of the disease burden through the control, elimination and eradication of targeted NTDs and contribute to poverty alleviation, increased productivity and better quality of life of the affected people in the African Region— lymphatic filariasis and trachoma by 2020, advanced control of schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis by 2020 and onchocerciasis by 2025.

What works?

The two most effective approaches for preventing and eliminating NTDs are:

  • mass administration of medicines (preventive chemotherapy) for diseases such as lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis, and trachoma;
  • early case finding and decentralized case management for Buruli ulcer, dracunculiasis, human African trypanosomiasis, leprosy, leishmaniasis and yaws.

For more information on the NTD programme, please visit our official website.


The Expanded Special Project for Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ESPEN) is a platform of support by the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa (AFRO) dedicated to reducing the burden of the five most prevalent neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) on the African continent. From 2016 to 2020, ESPEN will provide technical and operational support to endemic countries to help fight soil-transmitted helminthiasis, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis and trachoma.

ESPEN was established in a spirit of partnership between endemic countries in the African region, NTDs partners and WHO, and builds on the success and lessons of WHO’s most recent NTD control partnership, the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC), which was highly effective at reducing the burden of this disease on the continent.

ESPEN’s primary goal is to significantly reduce the prevalence of five NTDs and, where possible eliminate them, between 2016 and 2020, in concert with the WHO’s Roadmap for NTDs. The success of the project will be measured against a set of key objectives:

  1. Ensure countries and their national NTD programmes have the tools they need to eliminate these five leading NTDs in Africa.
  2. Support national NTD programmes in their efforts to reach every community and individual in need of treatment.
  3. Strengthen capacity of countries to collect, analyse, share and use data effectively.
  4. Identify funding opportunities and investment targets to make in-country NTD programmes more effective and sustainable.

For further information on ESPEN, see the following summary.

About Shrinking the Map on NTDs in Africa project

Accurate maps showing where NTDs are found and which communities are affected give ministries of health in endemic countries the evidence base to tackle the appropriate diseases and to use their resources and donated medicines more efficiently. However, in 2014, how 35% of countries in the Africa region had completed nationwide mapping of preventive chemotherapy (PC) NTDs.

In order to accelerate mapping of NTDs in the region, WHO-AFRO launch the Shrinking the Map on NTDs in Africa project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This project brought together ministries of health and technical partners to conduct surveys of lymphatic filariasis (LF), onchocerciasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) and schistosomiasis.

The projected integrated these new survey data with data previously collected by other partners to create an integrated mapping database. Field surveys were completed by December 2016 and survey data for LF, STH and schistosomiasis are now available for 95% districts in Africa, with some surveys to be completed in insecure areas. There remains a need to complete the mapping of onchocerciasis in low transmission settings, as the goal of onchocerciasis control has moved from control to elimination.

The mapping of trachoma has been spearheaded by the Global Trachoma Mapping Project (GTMP). Supported by DFID and USAID, the GTMP ended in December 2015, having mapped a total of 1627 districts. More than 2.6 million people were examined in each of 29 countries, including 16 in Africa.

Intensified Disease Management diseases (Buruli ulcer, human African trypanosomiasis, leprosy, leishmaniasis and yaws) require individual-based diagnosis, treatment and follow-up, and the mapping of these diseases is being dealt with separately.