At the recent “Uniting to Combat NTDs: Translating the London Declaration into Action,” we had a chance to catch up with Moses Bockarie, Director of the Centre for NTDs and Professor of Tropical Health Science at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. Bockarie works extensively with the Centre to improve the lives of the bottom billion by contributing to the development of tools and control strategies for NTDs.
Global Network: Why should we fight NTDs?
Moses Bockarie: NTDs affect the poorest communities in the world, and by eliminating these diseases we will significantly reduce poverty through increasing success rates in schools, improving the well-being of women […] and creating more opportunities for employment for people who are no longer disabled.
GN: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities the NTD research and treatment community is facing?
MB: I think the biggest opportunities we have right now are the companies committing to providing drugs [against NTDs]. But it’s very sad that the drugs are provided for free, but there are not enough resources to actually deliver them. The challenges are really associated with management. Ministries of Health and National Disease Control programs that were managing $100,000 budgets when they started implementation program, will now have to scale-up with budgets that will be millions of dollars. Do they have the financial capacity to manage this budget in order for them to report back so that they can get more funding? That’s where we have the problems. Also, a lot of funders are focusing on results, monitoring and evaluation. This requires a lot of technical capacity in diagnosis and in doing all the computation for actually managing the results. That is another place the programs are now challenged. So capacity building, monitoring and evaluation are where a lot of implementing partners will be focusing as we approach the end of these diseases.
GN: What specifically do we need to get past these challenges?
MB: I think, on the global level, it’s the recognition that this is important. Partners, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, put in a lot of funding into R&D, into research, but not, at the moment, as much into capacity development, in terms of training health professionals to do certain tasks […] USAID and DFID, the United Kingdom government have now also realized the importance of monitoring and evaluation and they are committing funds, in order to improve this. […] At the national level, we now need the Ministry of Health to create a stronger link between the program monitoring system and the health systems information arrangements. And show that we’ve got people who are technically capable to manage the data that will show the results that are required to inform the funders that the implementation process is working.
GN: What excites you most about the current NTD response?
MB: I think what excites me most now is the realization that we’re beginning to see results. As we start to scale down the implementation process, we are conducting surveys that are actually showing that for diseases like lymphatic filariasis we are actually achieving the elimination goals […] There are many districts in some of these countries where […] we’ve been able to show at the small district level, the disease has actually been eliminated. […] I think this is why the roadmap that was presented by the WHO in January this year was very optimistic about meeting the 2020 goals.