Most of the world’s neglected tropical diseases occur among populations that adhere to Islam, Catholicism, or Hinduism, an observation that affords opportunities to establish a unique interfaith dialogue and global action. The gap in global coverage for MDA and MDT to target the NTDs that disproportionately affect the world’s Muslims, Catholics, and Hindus affords an opportunity to establish a unique interfaith dialogue among religious leaders. Given that the NTDs are trapping such populations and faiths in a vicious cycle of poverty and despair, and the extremely low costs of MDA and MDT interventions, religious leaders should be brought together for identifying financial and other mechanisms for ensuring the poorest people gain access to essential medicines for NTDs.
In previous analyses, I have suggested that the NTDs are not evenly distributed throughout the developing countries of the tropics. Instead, approximately 30%–50% of the most common NTDs, such as intestinal helminth infections, schistosomiasis, and trachoma, occur in the nations that comprise the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, especially the poorest Islamic countries in Asia and Africa. Another 20%–30% of these high prevalence NTDs are found among the poorest people who live in large middle-income countries such as India, China, Pakistan, and Iran. Despite their huge disparities of income and levels of poverty, ironically, these same countries also have tremendous scientific prowess, including the capacity to produce and maintain nuclear arsenals.