Last week a really cool thing happened for NTDs.
The World Health Organization (WHO) released its first-ever comprehensive report on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The successful launch of the report in Geneva, Switzerland was also coupled with unprecedented drug donations from major pharmaceutical companies including GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Merck. This means that the drugs needed to treat people will continue to be available at a very low cost, and have an enormous impact on the existing NTD burden.
As an organization dedicated to advocacy and raising awareness of NTDs to a wide variety of audiences, we (The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases) wanted to bring the major players in the NTD community together to celebrate this momentous occasion.
Last night we held an evening reception in downtown Washington D.C. attracting over 100 people from embassies, NGOs, the U.S. government, pharmaceutical companies, and other key luminaries and experts in the NTD and broader global health community.
Between mingling and nibbling on delicious treats, we presented a short program with remarks from Dr. Neeraj Mistry, Managing Director of the Global Network, Dr. Peter Hotez, President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, and Dr. Francesco Rio, head of communications for the WHO’s NTD Control Department.
Dr. Mistry opened up the program discussing the role and the work of the Global Network as well as recognizing key luminaries from the audience which included:
- His Excellency Ambassador Steve Matenje ,Republic of Malawi
- Dr. Jon Andrus , Deputy Director, Pan American Health Organization
- Dr. Steven Ault, Regional Advisor, Pan American Health Organization
- Dr. Debapriya Dutta, Science and Technology Counselor , Embassy of India
- Mr. Arun Jha, Joint Secretary, Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers of the Ministry of Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals, India
- Dr. Adrian Hopkins, Director, Mectizan Donation Program
- Mr. Mort Hyman, Chairman of the Board, Sabin Vaccine Institute
Dr. Mistry also touched on the Global Network’s “Text for more info” campaign. If you text LIFE to 30466, you can learn more about how to “End the Neglect” and receive news and announcements from the Global Network as well as how to get involved in our grassroots advocacy campaigns. (See video on the right of the page to view our 15 second spot!)
Dr. Peter Hotez, ever the engaging speaker, gave a great “NTD 101” discussing the importance of mass drug administration and public-private partnerships for control and elimination efforts and what a report of this magnitude means for the NTD community. He also reinforced how modest the cost is to treat diseases that have plagued the world for centuries.
Dr. Francesco Rio, who leads the communications and capacity building efforts at the WHO’s NTD Control Department gave a very substantive report brief. He emphasized that the report provides not only a lot of information on the geographic distribution of NTDs and the human suffering they cause, but it also presents a solid body of evidence suggesting that victory is in sight for several of these diseases. In fact, Francesco alluded to in his remarks, that if we keep doing the right things better, and on a larger scale, some of these diseases could be eliminated by 2015, and others by 2020. Additionally, he highlighted the importance of streamlining and integrating efforts and how simple delivery channels can be used to distribute multiple NTD interventions and he commented on how the fight against NTDs has grown from a modest gathering in Berlin in 2005 approximately around the time people really started calling these diseases “NTDs.”
Yet, now that the event is over, and we’ve continued to create some buzz about NTDs and this highly influential report, we can’t just let this document sit on a bookshelf along with the myriad of other global health reports that come out regularly and gather dust. We must continue to build the momentum and the conversation about NTDs and this report will take us a long way towards reaching our goals for control and elimination .
* We have a lot more great event photos and maybe even some video to share with you so stay tuned!