A remarkable new bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this week that has the potential to help turn the tide in the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the “End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act” already enjoys bi-partisan support from co-sponsors Reps. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Greg Meeks (D-NY).
The End Neglected Diseases Act was sparked by last year’s Subcommittee hearing on “testimony from Dr. Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, and other NTD experts.
The legislation takes a wide approach to supporting the control and eliminate of NTDs, both in the U.S. and abroad. If passed, the bill would expand USAID’s NTD Program to target more diseases and better integrate programs, direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to research the impact of NTDs in the U.S. and require U.S. policymakers to advocate for increased NTDs efforts among international institutions such as the World Bank and United Nations. The bill will also create one or more NTD centers of excellence and establish a panel on intestinal worm infections to encourage increased R&D for tools to diagnose, prevent, treat and control NTDs.
The End Neglected Diseases Act would be a great compliment to the U.S. government’s ongoing efforts to fight these diseases and help to fill the remaining global treatment gaps. Since the launch of USAID’s NTD Program in fiscal year 2006, the program has exceeded expectations by delivering more than one billion treatments to nearly 468 million people, leveraging $6.7 billion worth of donated medicines across 25 developing countries. However, there is still much work to be done to achieve the World Health Organization’s NTD control and elimination goals by 2020; this new piece of legislation could play a significant role in achieving these goals.
Please click here to read more about the bill, including reactions from experts at the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Global Network.
Look out for our upcoming advocacy action next week
The policy team at the Global Network was busy this week taking the issue of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) up to Capitol Hill. Together with members of the NTD Roundtable, a group of global health partners committed to fighting NTDs, we co-sponsored an NTD staff briefing in the House of Representatives on Thursday May 8, and once again in the Senate on Monday May 12. The briefings were held to discuss the impact of USAID’s NTD Program, the significance of U.S. leadership in the fight against NTDs, the potential impact of the expanded FY14 funding of $100 million for NTDs, and the need for greater NTD R&D to address treatment gaps.
The House briefing was held the same day that USAID announced the delivery of its one billionth NTD treatment since the launch of its NTD Program in fiscal year 2006. USAID Assistant Administrator for Global Health, Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, recognized the occasion by visiting a mass drug administration site in Saint-Louis-du-Sud, Haiti. During the visit, Dr. Pablos-Méndez said “the power of committed partnerships” is a key ingredient in USAID’s successful NTD Program, which brings together ministries of health, implementing NGOs, and pharmaceutical companies to form the largest public-private partnership inthe Agency’s 50-year history.
The Hill briefings were attended by representatives from key House and Senate committees, the NGO community, and the African diplomatic corps including the Ambassador of Niger, His Excellency Maman Sidikou, and the Ambassador of Burkina Faso, His Excellency Seydou Bouda. Global Network Managing Director, Neeraj Mistry, provided opening remarks and moderated the event, and presentations were given by Dr. Achille Kabore of RTI, Andrea Rudolph of Médecins Sans Frontières and Rachel Cohen of DNDi. During the briefings, participants also viewed the END7 campaign’s newest video, “Myanmar’s Moment.” The video highlights an END7-supported mass drug administration program in Myanmar.
Following the formal presentation in the House, the speakers and participants engaged in a lively discussion surrounding the treatment of lymphatic filariasis and intestinal worms, the efficacy of certain NTD medicines, the NTD legislation that Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) plans to introduce soon, and how best to educate and showcase the success of NTD programs to the African diplomatic community. Ambassador Sidikou of Niger re-iterated that success stories must be highlighted to encourage program expansion; Niger was one of USAID’s first five fast-track countries that were the original focus of the NTD Program in FY2006. Since then, USAID has distributed 115 million NTD treatments and Niger is on track to eliminate blinding trachoma by 2015.
After the presentations in the Senate, the audience discussed advocacy for NTDs, what needs to be done to reach the WHO’s 2020 goals, and how to mix the need to use currently available tools to treat NTDs and the need to design new tools to improve or discover new treatments. Ambassador Bouda of Burkina Faso expressed gratitude for the great work that is being done in his country to fight NTDs; Burkina Faso is also a USAID fast-track country, and nearly 146 million treatments have been distributed since the NTD Program began operations.
The staff briefings were a great opportunity to demonstrate to Congress the success and effectiveness of NTD control and elimination programs. With the support of USAID, leading pharmaceutical companies, NGO partners and the commitment of NTD-endemic countries, we’re getting closer to controlling and eliminating NTDs worldwide.
In January, we celebrated the disappointing news that President Obama’s FY15 budget request recommended cutting NTD funding by more than 13%, down to just $86.5 million. Considering the great strides the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) NTD Program has made in improving health around the world, cutting funding now would be a huge mistake.
Investing in NTDs is a smart, cost-effective way to boost the health and economic prosperity of millions of people worldwide. Global health is a fraction of one percent of the federal $1.012 trillion budget – and the budget for NTDs is even smaller. But this tiny amount has a huge impact.
recommended that the U.S. program for NTDs be funded at $125 million in FY15.
An increase in funding for NTDs means effective programs, like this one in Sierra Leone, will continue to run. Last year, the USAID NTD Program, together with partners, assisted Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health in providing almost half a million people in the country, including Sahr Gando, with life-saving medicines. After receiving treatment, Sahr Gando was able to go back to work and support his family – a task which may have been impossible if treatment never arrived.
Together, we can ensure NTD programs like the one in Sierra Leone are protected – or even improved.
here to send a letter to Congresswomen Granger and Lowey—longtime advocates of NTDs and leaders of the House appropriations subcommittee that focuses on global health and foreign assistance funding―to thank them for their continued support for NTD programs and urge them to maintain or even increase funding for NTDs in FY15.
Thanks for taking a stand with us.
After three years of indecisive budget wars, Congress has successfully passed a national budget for 2014. The one trillion-dollar-deal sailed through the House (359-67) and Senate (72-26) on January 15 and 16, and was quickly signed by President Obama the next day, raising hopes that compromise will replace gridlock in Washington in 2014.
What you may not know is that NTDs won big
“In addition, the bill prioritizes global health, humanitarian, and democracy promotion programs—while reducing funding in other lower priority areas—to advance American interests around the globe and to fulfill the nation’s moral obligation to those in dire need.”
To date, USAID’s NTD Program has distributed more than 800 million treatments to nearly 250 million people across 25 countries, leveraging more than $6.7 billion worth of donated drugs, which represents one of the most successful publichttp//unitingtocombatntds.org/downloads/press/ntd_event_london_declaration_on_ntds.pdf']);">London Declaration’s control and elimination goals.
So throw a party, grab some cake, and celebrate this great win for NTDs.