Governments and private donors have pledged 812 million dollars in new commitments to the collective efforts to control and eliminate neglected tropical diseases NTDs. NTDs disable, debilitate and perpetuate cycles of poverty, keeping children out of school, parents out of work, and dampening hope of any chance of an economic future. One in six people suffer from NTDs worldwide, including more than half a billion children. In Uganda, the Ministry of Health estimates that 11 million people suffer from NTDs in the country.
This week, leaders from governments, pharmaceutical companies and charitable organizations convened at a five-day summit in Geneva, Switzerland to pledge the new commitments and efforts towards ending NTDs.
The summit coincided with the launch of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Fourth Report on NTDs, showing transformational progress against these debilitating diseases, and a commitment by the United Kingdom to more than double its funding for NTDs.
The meeting comes five years after the launch of the London Declaration on NTDs, a commitment by the public and private sectors to achieve the WHO goals for control, elimination and eradication of 10 NTDs.
In that time, billions of treatments have been donated by pharmaceutical companies and delivered to impoverished communities in nearly 150 countries, reaching nearly a billion people in 2015.
NTDs are some of the oldest and most painful diseases, afflicting the world's poorest communities.
The 10 diseases covered by the London Declaration include onchocerciasis or river blindness, Guinea worm disease, lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis), blinding trachoma, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminths, leprosy, Chagas disease, visceral leishmaniasis and human African trypanosomiasis commonly known as sleeping sickness.
One in six people suffer from NTDs worldwide, including more than half a billion children. NTDs disable, debilitate and perpetuate cycles of poverty, keeping children out of school, parents out of work, and dampening hope of any chance of an economic future.
According to Uganda's ministry of health, 11 million people suffer from NTDs in the country.
In a statement released today, industry leaders reaffirmed their 2012 pledge to do their part to beat these diseases, and encouraged other sectors to maintain their commitments as well.
Haruo Naito, the Chief Executive Officer of Eisai and an original signatory of the London Declaration, said the declaration is a powerful example of the impact of successful partnerships. He adds that "by leveraging our resources and focusing on a common goal, we are already making unprecedented progress towards eliminating these horrific diseases".
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation committed 335 million dollars in grants over the next four years to support a diverse group of NTD programmes focused on drug development and delivery, disease surveillance and vector control.
The commitment includes 42 million dollars to support The Carter Center's guinea worm eradication initiative, as well as dedicated funding to accelerate the elimination of African sleeping sickness, including in Uganda.
The world's richest man, Bill Gates, also co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said NTDs being some of the most painful, debilitating and stigmatising diseases that affect the world's poorest communities propelled them to help launch the London Declaration, a historic milestone that led to significant progress in treating and reducing the spread of NTDs.
A new report titled Integrating Neglected Tropical Diseases in Global Health and Development by the WHO revealed that more people are being reached with needed NTD interventions than ever before.
In 2015, nearly a billion people received treatments donated by pharmaceutical companies for at least one NTD, representing a 36 percent increase since 2011, the year before the launch of the London Declaration. As more districts, countries and regions eliminate NTDs, the number of people requiring treatments has decreased from 2 billion in 2010 to 1.6 billion in 2015.
Commenting on the study, the WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, said "WHO has observed record-breaking progress towards bringing ancient scourges like sleeping sickness and elephantiasis to their knees".
Dr. Chan said over the past 10 years, millions of people have been rescued from disability and poverty, thanks to one of the most effective global partnerships in modern public health.
NTDs affect over a billion people. WHO says although nearly a billion people received NTD treatments in 2015, more funding is needed to ensure that NTD programmes reach all people and communities affected by the diseases.
WHO estimates that 340 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa could be covered by new investments of 150 million dollars per year through the year 2020.