At the recent “Uniting to Combat NTDs: Translating the London Declaration into Action,” we had a chance to catch up with Ellen Agler, Chief Executive Officer of the END Fund. The END Fund is a private philanthropic fund mobilizing resources for neglected tropical diseases in Africa.
Global Network: What does it take for exposed individuals to fight NTDs?
Ellen Agler: When I was in Mali, I also got a chance to see in addition to the mass drug administration other aspects of the program. There is a huge backlog of trichiasis surgery. Blinding trachoma, if it starts advancing, it is incredibly painful… It feels like sand going over your cornea, and you will go blind if you don’t get this surgery in the advanced stages.
And to see how simple of a surgery it was- that it really only took 10 or 15 minutes. [END Fund] do have this incredible message of about 50 cents per person per year can protect you against these seven diseases that cause disability, cause suffering, cause blindness, and really change the trajectory of your life. And that is a simple message, and I think that we’re all rallying to ensure that we can prevent these diseases, we can treat them in the early stage so that no one has to suffer those diseases.
Global Network: How would you describe NTDs?
Ellen Agler: With neglected tropical diseases, it sounds like the diseases are neglected, but it’s really the people who are neglected, and it’s a neglected issue. I mean for an issue that is affecting over a billion people, really destroying the trajectory of people’s lives, everyone should know about that, and everyone should know people are looking for cost-effective ways, high-impact ways to make a difference. And for as little as 50 cents per person per year you can ensure they don’t go blind, they can go to school, they don’t have the pain of worms literally moving around their belly and preventing them from feeling good enough to just get up and walk to school. We should all know about that, we should all be doing something, and I think that now is the time for us to really engage.
Global Network: How can the global community help fight NTDs?
Ellen Agler: There are a billion people who are going to be sick and suffering, and going blind and not able to go to school unless they get these medicines, and these medicines are free so this is truly the life you can save. And from a humanitarian perspective, when you see somebody suffering and you can do something about it.
I feel like if you start with a premise that health is a human right, and that every life has equal value, and you see people suffering from these neglected tropical diseases, you can’t help but say I’m going to do something about that, and we need to all do something about that and contribute to this movement to end the neglect.