Tomorrow is the second anniversary of the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) – the largest coordinated effort against NTDs to date. Since its launch, governments across the globe have committed to end NTDs and hundreds of millions of people have been treated for these diseases. This week we’re recognizing the remarkable progress and momentum achieved since the formation of this global partnership where 13 pharmaceutical companies; the governments of the United States, United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; World Bank and other international organizations formed a global partnership to control and eliminate 10 NTDs by the end of the decade – a commitment that Sabin Vaccine Institute’s president Dr. Peter Hotez calls a “tipping point for the world’s poor.”
The London Declaration has served as a roadmap to improve the lives of the 1.4 billion people worldwide affected by NTDs, most of whom are among the world’s poorest. Since then, regional committees, endemic and donor countries, NGO and pharmaceutical partners throughout the world committed to and prioritized controlling and eliminating NTDs. Eliminating NTDs is understood to be one of the most cost-effective and comprehensive ways to achieve development goals and eliminate poverty. While we still have a long way to go, measured progress has been made and we’re feeling optimistic about the route to 2020, and we know that with increased funds and political commitment, the number of people needlessly suffering from NTDs will decrease.
In Asia this past year:
- 6 countries started the process to verify elimination of lymphatic filariasis (LF) – an extremely painful and debilitating NTD
- 6 countries reached the global target of deworming at least 75% of school-aged children
- India’s Joint Secretary in the Ministry on Health, Dr. Anshu Prakash, stated the country’s commitment to the controlling and eliminating of NTDs – an important announcement considering India bears 35% of the world’s burden for NTDs
- Following the launch of the Regional Strategic Plans for WPRO and SEARO, more than 10 countries across Asia and the Pacific updated their national plans and renewed their commitment to end NTDs, and East Timor is preparing to launch its national program this year.
- The Sixth Conference of African Union (AU) Ministers of Health (CAMH6) in April called for increased domestic investment in NTD control and elimination
- The World Health Organization’s (WHO) 63rd Regional Committee for Africa meeting passed a regional strategic plan to accelerate achievements
- Three African countries launched national integrated master NTD plans – Nigeria in February, Ethiopia in June and Uganda in September – totaling more than 30 African countries with such plans.
- This spring, we learned that Togo is soon to become the first sub-Saharan African country to eliminate LF
And in Latin America and the Caribbean:
- The Organization of American States (OAS) passed a resolution in June 2013 endorsing the Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) goal of control and elimination of NTDs by 2015
- In July 2013, Colombia became the first country in the Americas to receive certification of onchocerciasis elimination – and as of the end of 2013, 25 million children at risk for intestinal worms received treatment and 10 out of the 12 million people requiring treatment for LF are receiving it
- Central American forums and committees highlighted the importance of NTD treatment – including the Council of Ministers of Health of Central America and the Dominican Republic (COMISCA) who recognized the importance of NTDs in regards to the 2020 sustainable development goals.
- 17 of 20 priority countries in the region have either launched comprehensive NTD plans or have drafts
While the progress in these regions is promising, more needs to be done by both endemic countries and partners. If we are to truly eliminate poverty and the diseases that perpetuate it, we need sustained support from all stakeholders: endemic countries, donors, regional and global committees, NGOs and more. As managing director of the Global Network, Dr. Neeraj Mistry, recently stated in an op-ed, NTD control and elimination efforts must also integrated into broader efforts to eliminate poverty and achieve global development goals:
“By including NTDs and specific targets in the post-2015 development agenda, we will support country-led efforts to reach control and elimination goals, improve the health and well-being of hundreds of millions of people, and accelerate progress in global poverty reduction.”
Ending the 10 most common NTDs by 2020 was an ambitious goal but the progress of the last two years proves the global community is up for the challenge, and will continue to fight until NTDs no longer exist.