All posts by Selma Melkich

Powerful Testimonies Urge Action on Neglected Tropical Diseases

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Earlier this month, The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, chaired by ght AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund).

Powerful testimonies were delivered from dedicated global health advocates, including Elton John AIDS Foundation; and Dr. Rick Warren, Pastor, Saddleback Church.

While discussing the financial and programmatic difficulties of working to combat diseases such as HIVhttp//www.leahy.senate.gov/biography/', 'Ranking Member Leahy');">Ranking Member Leahy (D-VT) underscored the importance of investing in prevention stating that “Many of these diseases can be prevented for just a few dollars.” As we have learned from the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, investing in preventative measures is much more cost-effective than attempting to contain a major outbreak. The Senator added:

“Very few Americans suffer from malaria, polio, Dengue fever, or river blindness. Can you imagine if they did? You’d have people lined up out here saying ‘What are you spending, let’s do something about it!’…This goes beyond politics or economics…we can do better.”

Dengue fever and river blindness are neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) transmitted to humans through bites of infected blackflies and mosquitoes, respectively. Dengue fever can cause severe joint, muscle and bone pain, and river blindness, also known as onchocerciasis, can lead to visual impairment and permanent blindness. Globally, 1.9 billion people are at risk for NTDs. These diseases result in severe physical disabilities and they prevent children from attending school or adults from working – resulting in an endless cycle of economic hardship.

By adding NTDs to the conversation, Sen. Leahy drew attention to a critical link between NTDs and other infectious diseases such as malaria, for example. In many parts of the world, NTDs are a result of inadequate water supply, limited access to sanitation facilities and poor hygiene. Mosquitoes breed in areas with stagnant water and can transmit not only malaria, but also NTDs including dengue fever, lymphatic filariasis and chikungunya.

Synergies such as these stress the importance of partnerships and building more resilient health systems. One way that initiatives such as the Global Fund and PEPFAR work to strengthen health systems in countries and communities is by investing in community health workers.

The Global Network thanks Chairman Graham and Sen. Leahy for holding this productive hearing. The testimonies from this panel of experts underscore the critical role the U.S. Government plays in combating global health issues. Because we have made such enormous strides in the fight against many infectious diseases, including NTDs, we cannot risk reversing the results we have achieved so far.  Those living in extreme poverty around the world are counting on our help.


Funding for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Neglected Tropical Disease (USAID’s NTD) Program is at risk due to the President’s proposed budget of $86.5 million for FY2016 – a $13.5 million drop  from the $100 million allocated by Congress for FY2014 and FY2015. The USAID NTD Program is an extremely successful and cost-effective public-private partnership that has reached more than 465 million individuals in 25 countries with life-saving treatments.

The Global Network’s add your name here.

Speak out against Proposed Cuts to the USAID’s NTD Program

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The Global Network was disappointed to see the proposed decrease in neglected tropical disease (NTD) funding outlined in the President’s budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2016.  While the proposal includes $86.5 million for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Neglected Tropical Disease (USAID’s NTD) Program, it is a drop of $13.5 million from the $100 million allocation approved by Congress for FY 2014 and FY 2015.

Bipartisan action in Congress has thankfully, over the past few years, led to increased funding for NTD programs beyond the Administration’s requests. This year, the Global Network is urging Congress to honor and continue these previous commitments by requesting that the USAID NTD Program receive $125 million in funding for FY2016.

USAID’s NTD Program, an extremely successful and cost-effective public-private partnership, has reached more than 465 million individuals in 25 countries, focusing on the scale-up of mass drug administration (MDA) with the aim of controlling and eliminating the seven most common NTDs. The program leverages more than $6.7 billion worth of drugs donated by pharmaceutical companies in order to scale-up MDAs in endemic countries, such as Ethiopia, Indonesia, and Nigeria.

The USAID NTD Program is crucial for cutting poverty and increasing broader health outcomes worldwide, considering that NTD treatment contributes to the success of other development efforts. Maternal and child health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, education, and health systems strengthening ALL benefit from NTD treatment.

The Global Network’s add your name here.

For other ways to get involved and join the fight, use END7’s new share our infographic with your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues, which outlines just how crucial the USAID NTD Program is to the global effort to end NTDs.

Special Envoys Urge the Inclusion of NTDs within the Sustainable Development Goals

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In an effort to give greater visibility to neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and the one billion people affected by them, three of the Global Network Special Envoys, H.E. Alvaro Arzú Irigoyen, H.E. John A Kufuour and Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, wrote a Synthesis Report on the post-2015 development agenda The report, entitled “The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet,” provides a summary of the post-2015 process to date and is meant to serve as a guiding tool during upcoming intergovernmental negotiations.

The Global Network is very grateful to have such prestigious global health champions advocating on behalf of the 1.4 billion people who suffer from NTDs. In their letter, the Envoys encourage the Secretary General to recognize the importance of clearly identifying NTDs as a public health priority in order to unlock the economic and social potential of more than one billion people living in marginalized communities around the world.

NTDs are parasitic and bacterial infections that can cause impaired childhood growth and development, poor pregnancy outcomes, blindness and crippling physical disfigurements, as well as an increased likelihood of contracting HIV, thwarting opportunities for social progress and economic growth.

Even though NTDs were included in the Outcome Document of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG) in 2014, they are not specifically mentioned in the Synthesis Report. The Special Envoys urge the inclusion of NTDs in the final post-2015 development agenda and the corresponding sustainable development goals and indicators in order to give increased visibility to the people affected by these diseases. We have achieved impressive results in our efforts to control and eliminate NTDs over the past decade, however, both donor and endemic country governments must commit additional resources if NTDs are to be eliminated.

As the window to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) closes this year and we grow closer to finalizing the development goals that will shape the next 15 years, world leaders have an excellent opportunity to ensure that people suffering from preventable diseases have access to free and lifesaving medicines and are able to productively contribute to their communities.

END7 Supports Strengthening and Scaling-Up of Deworming Campaigns in Peru

Peruvian health workers are helping end the burden of NTDs in Peru. Photo by INMED Andes

Peruvian health workers are helping control and eliminate NTDs. Photo by INPPACE

Approximately 3.5 million children are at risk for intestinal worms – including hookworm, whipworm and roundworm – in Peru. Even though Peru has experienced significant economic growth over the past decade, a large portion of its population continues to live in poverty, with four out of ten families still lacking access to clean water. Environments like these promote the transmission of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) like intestinal worms which can lead to malnutrition and anemia among children.

To address Peru’s NTD burden, the nonprofit organization With support from the Global Network’s END7 campaign, INMED recently launched a study to evaluate the impact of these deworming campaigns on addressing intestinal worm infections and the nutritional status of children in Peru’s Ucayali Region. INMED is collaborating with the Peruvian Institute for Clinical and Experimental Parasitology to complete the study.

health workers are trained to measure the height & weight of children. Photo by INMED

Health workers are trained to measure the height & weight of children. Photo by INMED

The study will provide important insights on how to improve the effectiveness of deworming campaigns and will inform the scale up of deworming campaigns across Peru. Peru’s Ministry of Health has called for semiannual national deworming days and with the support of INMED and Johnson & Johnson, Peru will launch a nationwide campaign to treat millions of children living in NTD-endemic areas of Peru at the end of this year.

The END7-supported study will also build the capacity of local health staff. Already, training has been completed for community health workers to deliver deworming medicines, for laboratory technicians to diagnose intestinal worm infections, and for nurses to carry out nutritional assessments such as measuring children’s weight and height and their hemoglobin levels, an important indicator for anemia. By training local staff, INMED is strengthening Peru’s public health sector and creating a sustainable project that will continue to improve the health of Peruvians.

INMED’s efforts to increase access to NTD treatment among the most vulnerable communities in rural areas of Peru are inspiring. Thanks to the generosity of END7 donors, this project will lay the groundwork for future deworming campaigns that will reach more children at risk for intestinal worms in Peru.