Category Archives: BRICS

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 promises and take concrete actions to control and eliminate NTDs. At the 2008 Hokkaido Toyako Summit, G7 leaders made impressive commitments to reach at least 75 percent of the people affected by NTDs, in order to eliminate these diseases as public health threats. By supporting the London Declaration, G7 leaders can invigorate a low-cost solution that unlocks the economic potential of millions of people burdened by these diseases, while simultaneously supporting the World Health Organization’s goal to control and eliminate NTDs and the World Bank’s target of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030.

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

A Wish List for 2015: 7 Achievable Victories in the fight against Neglected Tropical Diseases

 

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By Dr. Mirta Roses Periago

A new year always brings about new hope and renewed commitments. 2015 is a pivotal year for the international community and also for the call to end neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). So, here goes my “wish list” for 2015, which includes seven achievable yet ambitious victories for the global health and development community.

1. A step closer to declaring Latin America and the Caribbean free of river blindness

In 2013, Colombia became the first country in the world, as declared by the WHO to have eliminated river blindness transmission, and Ecuador followed shortly after in 2014. These countries show what can be achieved with unwavering political will and sustained action.

Mexico and Guatemala have stopped transmission of river blindness and are already in advanced stages with the WHO to take the final steps towards verifying elimination.

So, I am confident that Brazil and Venezuela will be successful in targeting the Americas’ final cases of river blindness, located along their borders among the indigenous Yanomami community. Through south south cooperation, they have joined forces to ensure that the all the Yanomami receive access to the treatments they need – tackling the last stronghold of river blindness in the region.

2. Progress towards eliminating lymphatic filariasis in the Latin America and the Caribbean

About 13.4 million people across the Latin American and Caribbean are at risk of lymphatic filariasis (LF), nearly 80 percent of them in Haiti. Despite challenges in recent years, including a cholera outbreak and earthquake, Haiti has been able to reach the entire population – about 10 million people – through mass drug administration (MDA). I hope to see continued support from the Haitian government and partners to interrupt the transmission of LF.

Additionally, I hope to see Brazil eliminate LF from the last active site in the country, located in the state of Pernambuco. Brazil has already eliminated LF in 8 states; this success is a clear reflection of their longstanding commitment and dedication to disease control and public health

3. The Inclusion of NTDs as part of Canada’s Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) policies and programs

Many of Canada’s priority partner countries carry significant burdens of malnutrition and NTDs, including Haiti, as well as Indonesia and Tanzania, posing a serious threat to maternal, newborn and child health. NTDs lead to stunting, wasting and the loss of Vitamin A and iron – hindering child growth and causing adverse pregnancy outcomes.

That is why I traveled to Ottawa last fall and called on Canadian policymakers to make sure that they integrate NTDs into their development strategies. Canada can help save lives and make a real difference for women and children by making sure that they have access to NTD treatments. This is a smart policy choice, one that could be financed through the Global Financing Facility for Every Woman, Every Child.

4. Regional Bodies translate promises into concrete action

Canada, Costa Rica and Brazil are among the 35 countries that passed a resolution in the Organization of American States in 2013, pledging to end the suffering of the 100 million people impacted by NTDs in the Americas. Health Ministers from Central America have also recognized the burden of NTDs, most recently at their 2013 regional meeting of the Council of Ministers of Health of Central America and the Dominican Republic (COMISCA).

I hope that the OAS, COMISCA and other regional organizations will leverage these important policy commitments to catalyze greater financial support and partnerships – just as COMISCA did for malaria. In addition to discussing NTDs during their 2013 regional health summit, several countries rallied together to eliminate malaria in the region.

Partners followed suit and the Global Fund invested $10.2 million to support this regional initiative, adding to the national malaria grants already approved.  The results of these commitments are clear: malaria rates have been falling, often times dramatically, across Latin America– and the region is just steps away from eliminating this disease as a public health threat. This is an excellent example of how strong, united regional commitments can accelerate global health efforts – and one that can be applied to the fight against NTDs.

5. BRICS fight NTDs at home and abroad

Last December, the BRICS Health Ministers gathered in Brasilia for the 4th Health Ministers meeting, where they added NTDs to their collective agenda for the very first time. I am very excited to see the BRICS countries work together to help see the end of NTDs by 2020.

I encourage the BRICS to build on this commitment by continuing to prioritize NTDs within their own countries.  I also hope they will explore ways to fight NTDs across the globe. The New Development Bank could offer a venue for the BRICS to finance NTD control efforts as part of their broader sustainable development projects.

6. G7 leaders make financial commitments to end NTDs by 2020

The G7 is off to an excellent start in 2015. Neglected and poverty-related diseases made it onto the G7 agenda for the upcoming June 2015 Summit. This year is critical for the G7 to take immediate action to close the books on their unfulfilled promise to expand access to NTD treatments.

7. Post-2015 Development Agenda Includes NTDs

I’m looking forward to seeing how the post-2015 development agenda takes shape this year. We absolutely must utilize existing global health solutions – including the NTD treatments generously donated by pharmaceutical companies. I am happy that NTDs were included as a health priority in the final Sustainable Working Group framework. However, they were not specifically mentioned in UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s recent synthesis report. If NTDs are not clearly identified in the final post-2015 development agenda and the corresponding sustainable development goals, they will once again remain as forgotten and invisible as the people and communities affected by them. Let us make them a health priority so that we can see the end of NTDs by 2020.

BRICS in the Response to Neglected Tropical Diseases

 

Children march through  the streets of Ghorahuan Village

Photo by Esther Havens

The BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) have a unique opportunity to lead the world in eliminating the threat of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Released just ahead of the BRICS annual meetings, a paper published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, explains how the BRICS could draw upon their own experiences tackling domestic global health challenges to further advance global efforts to control and eliminate NTDs by 2020.

In their paper, titled  BRICS in the response to neglected tropical diseases, authors Amber Cashwell, Anupama Tantri, Ashley Schmidt, Neeraj Mistry and Greg Simon call on the BRICS to lead the rest of the world by example. The BRICS countries – in particular, India and Brazil– shoulder a large NTD burden. By scaling up their own domestic NTD programs, the BRICS can help close the global NTD treatment gap and lead by example.

In addition, the authors call on the BRICS to pursue opportunities for joint cooperation. The annual BRICS Heads of State and Health Ministers meetings offer platforms where BRICS countries can exchange experiences and increase collaboration on NTDs. The BRICS countries can help apply best practices, innovative models, and lessons learned about NTD control and elimination to other NTD endemic countries.

And lastly, as powerful and emerging economies, the BRICS can use their collective voices to build political commitment, mobilize resources and implement policies that will help meet global NTD goals.

As the BRICS countries gear up to launch their own development bank this July, it’s important to keep in mind that addressing NTDs will also help the BRICS countries – and the rest of the world – develop economically. Global health challenges like NTDs perpetuate poverty and inequality, thus thwarting opportunities for social progress and economic growth.  NTDs can result in long-term health problems such as blindness and other physical disabilities, delayed cognitive development and malnutrition, leaving people unable to go to work, learn and live productive lives.

Controlling and eliminating NTDs by 2020 will surely be a global effort – and one that will progress more quickly and sustainably with BRICS at the lead.

To read the full paper, click here. 

A Missed Opportunity

 

By Amber Cashwell

The BRICS missed an opportunity during the 5th BRICS Summit last week to address neglected tropical diseases―a group of diseases that undermine economic growth and socio-economic development across the world.   Even though NTDs did not make it into the discussions, BRICS leaders recognized the importance of regional integration for Africa’s sustainable growth, development and poverty eradication, which could go a long way towards improving health in African countries.

During the Summit, a new BRICS Development Bank was at the top of the agenda, which will fund infrastructure projects both in member nations and in other emerging and developing countries.  In keeping with the summit’s theme “BRICS and Africa-Partnership for Integration and Industrialization,” President Jacob Zuma also hosted a retreat with key African leaders to explore ways to promote regional integration for Africa’s sustainable development.

The BRICS―Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa―make up 21 percent of global GDP, and it is expected that their trade in Africa will increase more than three-fold over the next few years, from $150 billion in 2010 to $530 billion in 2015.

Last month, the Global Network published the BRICS call to action, urging BRICS countries to include NTDs in its broader development and economic initiatives. If the BRICS pool resources, expertise and influence to galvanize action at the global level, they can enhance their development commitments to Africa and beyond.  They can also give neglected people who have been trapped in a cycle of poverty a real chance at achieving greater social and economic advancement.

A BRICS interim meeting during the upcoming G20 Summit in September offers another opportunity to fold NTD elimination into current development efforts.