House of Lords Debate in UK Parliament Highlights Advancements Made on NTDs

 

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Last week, Baroness Hayman, Board Trustee at the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Vice-chair of the UK’s All- Party Parliamentary Group on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases, chaired a House of Lords debate on the progress made in combating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) since the 2012 London Declaration and what is required to drive future success. The members of the House of Lords particularly emphasized the strong link between NTDs and poverty, reiterating United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s acknowledgement that “poverty reduction and the elimination of NTDs go hand-in-hand.”

The Lords discussed a wide-array of important topics, including: efforts to include NTDs in the post-2015 development agenda; cross-sector collaboration to create sustainable change; pharmaceutical company donations; the importance of scaling up cost-effective mass drug administration (MDA) programs; and the urgent need to mobilize resources from additional donor and endemic governments to close the NTD funding gap.

Many NTD partners were also acknowledged, including the Sabin Vaccine Institute, the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, the END7 campaign and its “Celebrity Shocker” video, and Dr. Peter Hotez; the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) and Dr. Alan Fenwick; the London Centre for Neglected Tropical Disease Research; and Sightsavers.

Below are key highlights from several parliamentarians. To read the full transcript, please click here.

Baroness Hayman:“The London declaration of 2012, whose second anniversary we mark with this debate, was hugely important, because it brought together funders, both national and philanthropic, pharmaceutical companies that donate the drugs necessary for mass drug administration programmes and endemic countries themselves in an effort to co-ordinate the fight against these diseases. Together with the ongoing support of the World Health Organisation, which has championed this work in recent years, we have seen a significant shift in the global prioritisation of neglected tropical diseases. Their inclusion in the healthy lives goal of the high-level panel on the post-2015 development agenda, published in May last year, was, I believe, a crucial step forward.”

Lord Blackheath:

“DfID is currently investing £50 million over five years towards the control of schistosomiasis and intestinal worms. For this amount, we will be heading to eliminate these infections in two of these countries and, for an estimated £50 million more, we could approach elimination in another four of these countries.”

Lord Patel:

“An urgent expansion of mass drug administration, not only to children but to women of childbearing age, for the eradication of hookworm and schistosomiasis is needed.”

Lord Alton:

“Scaling up integrated NTD control and elimination strategies is considered one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce global poverty. … the seven most common NTDs … cause blindness, huge swelling in appendages and limbs, severe malnutrition and anaemia—all brilliantly highlighted … in the END7 Youtube video featuring Eddie Redmayne and others.”

Lord Trees: 

“In spite of … remarkable commercial philanthropy, there is still a funding gap… Only 0.6% of overseas development assistance for health is devoted to NTDs. The British Government have set an excellent example, along with the US Government and NGOs, but I join the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, in urging the Government to exert all the pressure that they can on other richer countries, particularly in the EU, to ensure that they contribute more to this endeavour.”

Lord Crisp: 

“The other group worth mentioning is the communities themselves in Africa. The African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control, which is one of our partners at Sightsavers, has 100,000 community distributors of drugs, one in each village, who, once a year, deliver the drugs to everyone in the village in an attempt to eliminate the disease. That is an excellent example of community self-help, but it also allows them to distribute drugs for other diseases.”

Lord Collins: 

“Long-term elimination goals cannot be reached without addressing primary risk factors for NTDs, such as…having access to clean water and basic sanitation, vector control and stronger health systems in endemic areas. These issues will need to be addressed beyond the WHO 2020 goals and as part of the post-2015 development framework.”

Lord Bates: 

“Underpinning the results lies a collaborative network. We continue to work closely with donor colleagues, particularly the US Agency for International Development, the World Bank, the World Health Organisation and, of course, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to improve the way in which we tackle these diseases. National Governments are key partners too, particularly in the delivery of mass drug administration through schools and communities. … because these are diseases of the rural poor we should have people down at a village level engaged in tackling them.”

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