This panel addresses the growing interest in dealing with previously 'neglected' tropical diseases and the implications this has for the governance of development interventions, strengthening of health systems, and prioritisation of science for development in Africa.
Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are a group of chronic parasitic, viral and bacterial infections whose biggest impact is felt in Africa. Collectively, the 20 or so diseases classified as 'NTDs' account for up to 90 per cent (according to some studies) of death and disability in sub-Saharan Africa and are a major driver of poverty and underdevelopment. The diseases have been dubbed 'neglected' due to a historical relative lack of interest, investment and treatment in Africa, especially in comparison to the Big Three infectious diseases of HIV/Aids, Malaria and Tuberculosis. This is, however, beginning to change with various new partnerships, initiatives and funding streams starting to focus on their control and eventual elimination. This new attention, while welcome, needs to be understood and problematized, however, as there are potentially far-reaching implications for African health systems, the systems of governance and decision-making that decide how best to intervene and control these diseases, the ambiguous role of pharmaceutical companies as partners, and the prioritisation of scientific research and development around these diseases: their etiology, epidemiology and ultimately control. This panel will draw together papers focused on addressing the implications and promise of major new initiatives to control NTDs in Africa, and in doing so will attempt to unpick the relationships between the global networks that aim to put NTDs on the agenda and the local realities of understanding and controlling these diseases in African contexts. This will contribute to our understanding of how health systems in Africa evolve, and what shapes them.