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IDB plans major effort to fight neglected infectious diseases in Latin America and the Caribbean

Bank to create grant facility to support health measures to control and eliminate diseases such as dengue and Chagas

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)—together with the Pan American Health Organization and the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases—is planning a major effort to fight these so-called neglected diseases, which affect the poorest populations of the region, particularly the indigenous and afro-descendants.

More than 47 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean are at risk or are being affected by infectious diseases ranging from dengue fever to schistosomiasis.

The Board of the IDB approved on Sept. 2 a co-financing agreement with the Sabin Vaccine Institute, in which the biggest multilateral lender for Latin America and the Caribbean will design and create a new lending facility to fight parasitic and infectious diseases in the region.

The new grant facility will support health actions by state and national level entities, both governmental and nongovernmental, in a bid to scale-up efforts toward controlling and eliminating neglected infectious diseases, known as NID. Under the accord, the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases at the Sabin Vaccine Institute will provide $2.5 million to the IDB over the next two years to develop and launch the facility. The funds are part of a larger grant the Global Network received earlier this year from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

The new facility will provide grants to support mass drug administration, preventive chemotherapy and conduct other proven cost-effective interventions to fight tropical diseases. Moreover, it will provide technical assistance to strengthen national and local health information systems and foster cooperation among different sectors of the society and existing health and social programs to control such ailments.

The new grant facility will support measures to eliminate onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness, and lymphatic filiariasis, commonly known as elephantiasis. It will seek to prevent and control trachoma, the world’s leading cause of infectious blindness, and three parasitic diseases: schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis and Chagas disease. It will also include interventions to control or drastically reduce prevalence of other ailments that could be part of an integrated plan, for example dengue, leishmaniasis, rabies transmitted by dogs, plague and other neglected tropical diseases.

“The IDB is taking a very important step to help the region put an end to these preventable and controllable diseases of poverty,” IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno said. “These afflictions have a debilitating effect on social and economic development. They disproportionately affect the  poor and cause chronic illnesses that prevent millions of people from working and earning a decent level of income.” 

Under the technical cooperation agreement, together with its partners, the IDB will develop the architecture, governance and operational arrangements for the new facility, which will be funded by donations from governments, foundations, private sector entities and multi and bilateral aid agencies. The Bank will work closely with the Global Network for the Neglected Tropical Diseases and the Pan-American Health Organization to set up partnerships, raise awareness to fight tropical diseases and mobilize resources for the new facility.