London : The World Health Organization (WHO), government officials, private sector partners, philanthropists, NGOs and youth groups are among those joining a global event today calling on world leaders not to forget the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) – which affect one in five people on the planet.
The virtual event, hosted by Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases, will call on country leaders and policy makers to remember more than 1.7 billion people affected by NTDs and continue the commitment set out in the 2012 London Declaration on NTDs which comes to an end this year.
“Work to capitalise on the incredible gains made over the last eight years since the London Declaration was signed is imperative,” says Chair of the Uniting Board, Mona Hammami. “Especially given the current global health landscape. The Uniting partnership is responding to the WHO road map by expanding to include all 20 diseases. We believe that over the next ten years we can put an end to many diseases of poverty. Since the London Declaration was signed, we have made historic eliminations in 32 countries but COVID-19 represents a significant challenge for all sectors working in global health. It has drawn global attention to the need to protect people from major health crises. With support from world leaders, dedicated partners and continued donations from the pharmaceutical industry we can ensure the progress of the last eight years does not halt.”
Over 1.7 billion people are affected by NTDs, which cause immeasurable suffering around the world. The World Bank projects that COVID-19 will cause the first increase in global poverty since 1998. 23 million people are expected to be pushed into poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and 16 million in South Asia. Hardest hit is likely to be India, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, countries already highly endemic for NTDs.
Dr Mwelecele Ntuli Malecela, Director, WHO Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases, believes it is more vital than ever not to lose focus. “COVID‐19 has affected almost every country and amplified inequity worldwide. Our upcoming road map envisages important shifts and one of them is integration which we can leverage to work across sectors and in conjunction with the many other programmes – malaria, TB, immunization, the whole gamut of public health interventions – to respond to a radically changed public health landscape. Failure to collaborate and pool-in resources and efforts will jeopardize the progress we have made over the past decade.”