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BRICS and G7 Countries Poised to Expand Access to NTD Treatments

Photo by Sumanto Chattopadhyay

Photo by Sumanto Chattopadhyay

2015 provides a tremendous opportunity to improve global health, particularly as the window to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) closes. With the international community looking ahead to the post-2015 development agenda, leaders from some of the world’s most advanced and growing economies are poised to play an important role in expanding access to neglected tropical disease (NTD) treatments.

Recently, the Global Network was encouraged to see both the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and the Group of 7 (G7) call attention to NTDs and add momentum to the global movement to control and eliminate them.

For example, under Brazil’s leadership, NTDs were added to the BRICS’ collective health agenda for the first time during the Fourth BRICS Health Ministers Meeting, held in Brasilia, Brazil, on Dec. 5, 2014. Recognizing that many of these diseases are preventable, officials pledged to improve access to existing health solutions that will help the world control and eliminate NTDs by 2020.

This move marks a positive step and injects new energy in the global fight against NTDs. This group of 17 parasitic and bacterial infections has a devastating impact on the poorest, most marginalized communities across the globe, perpetuating poverty and inequality.

In addition to the BRICS’ commitment to address NTDs, we were happy to see that neglected and poverty-related diseases will be one of the focal areas for the 2015 G7 Summit agenda. This year’s Summit, held on June 7-8 in Germany, will provide an important platform for promoting and coordinating efforts to control and eliminate NTDs. Collectively, these diseases impede economic growth and can cause impaired childhood growth and development, poor pregnancy outcomes, blindness and crippling disfigurement.

The G7 Summit also provides an opportunity to reinforce that investments in NTD control programs are one of the best buys in global health. Pharmaceutical companies have already stepped up, providing medicine free-of-charge to treat the most common NTDs through 2020. G7 leadership, in particular, is critical to leveraging these drug donations. More resources for NTD control programs would allow countries to scale up interventions through mass drug administrations to deliver treatment to all those who need them.

While both the BRICS and G7 countries have made encouraging commitments, we hope they will deliver on their promises and take concrete actions to control and eliminate NTDs.

Much progress has been made, but there is still work to be done. For example, BRICS countries continue to account for more than 30 percent of the world’s children at risk of intestinal worms, and India alone represents nearly half of the world’s population at risk of lymphatic filariasis. BRICS countries can set an example both within and beyond BRICS borders by prioritizing NTD control and elimination.

We also hope to see G7 leaders deliver on their earlier World Bank’s target of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030.

For more on the BRICS and G7, read our statements here.

Bill and Melinda Gates Bet on the Elimination of Guinea Worm, Elephantiasis, Trachoma and Onchocerciasis

GatesLetter-Quotes-Facebook-14

In their Annual Letter, Bill and Melinda Gates have one big bet: The lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history. And their lives will improve more than anyone else’s.

Considering the tremendous progress made in the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), we couldn’t agree more. By advocating for the control and elimination of NTDs, the international community is making big strides to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people.

Just last year, 800 million people were treated for NTDs, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s NTD Program successfully delivered its one billionth NTD treatment. Echoing this momentum, NTD treatment continues to be recognized as a key tool for cutting extreme poverty. For example, the G7 and BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) recently made commitments to accelerate progress toward the global fight against NTDs.

NTDs are the most common affliction of the world’s poorest people, contributing to debilitating blindness, disfiguration and a number of harmful outcomes including school absenteeism, malnutrition and poor maternal and child health. This group of parasitic and bacterial infections is notorious for perpetuating poverty and undermining broader global development efforts. In order to end poverty and improve the lives of the poor, we must prioritize the control and elimination of NTDs.

In their annual letter, Bill and Melinda Gates specifically call for the end of four NTDs: Guinea worm, elephantiasis, trachoma and onchocerciasis. They write:

“Destroying a disease utterly is a very difficult thing to do—so difficult, in fact, that it’s only happened once in history, when smallpox was eradicated in 1980. But if we keep working hard, we can eradicate four diseases by 2030. We can get polio out of Africa this year and out of every country in the world in the next several years. Guinea Worm, an incredibly painful disease whose sufferers spend months incapacitated while worms that can be several feet long burst out of their legs, will also be gone soon, thanks in large part to the leadership of President Carter and the Carter Center. We’ll also see the last of diseases like Elephantiasis, River Blindness, and Blinding Trachoma, which disable tens of millions of people in poor countries. The drugs that can stop these scourges are now being donated in huge numbers by pharmaceutical companies, and they’re being used more strategically thanks to advances in digital maps that show where diseases are most prevalent. Last year these free medicines were distributed to 800 million people.”

Bill and Melinda Gates’ important message injects new energy into the fight against NTDs. Their message is timely, following the recent appropriation by Congress of $100 million toward USAID’s NTD Program for FY 2015 and the launch of India’s ambitious campaign to treat more than 400 million people for elephantiasis, which if successful, could help India eliminate elephantiasis within the next few years and set a bold example for the world.

To read the full letter, here.

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Following the Footprints to an India Free of Lymphatic Filariasis

India is embarking on the largest mass drug administration in history against lymphatic filariasis (LF), also called elephantiasis or filaria, a painful, disabling and disfiguring neglected tropical disease (NTD).

A shocking 500 million people are at risk of infection in India. But if the government expands its efforts to treat every community at risk, it could eliminate LF from the country as early as next year.

To support this ambitious effort, Indias Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched a campaign titled Hathipaon Mukt Bharat (Filaria Free India).

Giant Footprints!, a video created by the Global Network, Ogilvy and Little Lamb Productions, is raising awareness of this campaign and encouraging all Indians at risk to take the preventive medicine.

India is on the verge of success. Be a part of the story by sharing the video today.

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