Category Archives: Global Development

LwL: A Life Worth Living



This post was originally published on the Aspen Idea Blog.

What makes a life worth living? For many of us, it’s our relationships with our families and loved ones, the ability to follow our passions, excel at work, and improve opportunities for ourselves and future generations.

While tremendous efforts are underway to prevent deaths worldwide, guaranteeing survival is not enough. We must also strive to ensure that every human lives a life of quality.

Nearly half the world’s population is robbed of the minimum requirements that allow them to reach their full potential. Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), parasitic and infectious diseases affecting 1.4 billion people worldwide, debilitate entire families and communities. They cause anemia and malnutrition, and can lead to blindness, school absenteeism, disfiguration and the loss of livelihoods. NTDs drastically weaken a person’s health and cause unnecessary suffering.

At the basic level, access to adequate nutrition, the opportunity to be educated, the ability to enjoy human interaction, and the right to prosper and contribute to society all make a life worth living. Yet NTDs rob the billion and a half people living in poverty of these basic needs and undermine other development challenges like maternal and child health. In order to flourish, these needs must be met.

Life isn’t just about the number of days we live, but the quality of those days. Every human, no matter where they were born, has the right to a fulfilled life and the right to determine their own future.

By fighting NTDs, we can help protect the health of the world’s poor and vastly improve their quality of life, increasing opportunity and equality. And it’s inexpensive and easy to do so. For less than 50 cents per person per year, we can control and eliminate NTDs altogether within the decade. 

Solving this global health challenge will require collective action. In an e-world where communication is often reduced to three letter acronyms, LwL – Life worth Living is a way of thinking about and raising awareness of the social, psychological and developmental impacts of NTDs. LwL has universal appeal as self-examination for “haves” and “have-nots” in a broader understanding and value of life. As a concerned global community, we can work together to ensure all people have the tools they need to live their life worth living.

LwL is a symbol that reminds us to be mindful as we go about our daily lives and reflect on what constitutes a life worth living – not only for us in the healthy or developed world, but for those suffering from poor health and poverty as well. If we as a community can reflect on LwL, we can help ensure a healthier and happier life for all.

Health Care Workforce Shortage=Failure to Meet MDGs


Health workers in Honduras

Health workers in Honduras. Photo by Olivier Asselin

Did you know 83 countries do not have enough health workers to meet the World Health Organization’s minimum standard to provide basic health services (No Health Without a Workforce, 2013)? The importance of the health workforce cannot be overstated and without concrete efforts from the international community to strengthen the frontline community of health workers, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and those health goals being outlined for the Post-2015 United Nations Development Agenda, will not be met.

Congressional Briefing Highlight

 Recently, I attended a congressional briefing led by International Medical Corps (IMC) and Management Sciences for Health (MSH) in cooperation with Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dibba F. Edwads and Representative Kristi Noem and Doris O. Matsui. The briefing, titled,“Saving Women’s and Children’s Lives; Strengthening the Health Workforce in Fragile Countries” discussed the needs of the frontline health workers today and highlighted a few examples of programs addressing these gaps successfully.

Saving Mothers, Giving Life, was one program highlighted as a model of best practice.  The program is currently operating in Uganda (a fragile state) and Zambia, and is focused on maternal and child health.  Saving Mothers, Giving Life pays special attention to the needs of individual health care providers by offering training and mentoring services to improve contact with patients and grow the workforce of community health workers in these cities.  The program also focused on the health facilities themselves, working to improve access to health services overall.  By focusing on the health workforce and the health workplace, this program has seen a 30% reduction in maternal mortality in both countries. The multitude of public and private partnerships involved has also been an innovative piece to the model of this program design worth noting.  A few other “best practice models” were highlighted at this briefing, including examples from other fragile states (ie: Sudan, Afghanistan and Pakistan), but the resounding message from all examples was clear: the importance of individual health workers’ needs and the need for infrastructure to support their endeavors improves health outcomes for the community.

Multi-Talented Workforce Easily Overworked

Health workers are a huge asset to improving population health and they often are trained to care for a multitude of ailments (ie: maternal child health care workers can offer services for nutrition needs, routine immunizations, malaria, HIV/AIDs, TB, and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and NTD health workers distributing mass drug administration pills can also distribute malaria nets and vitamin A supplements).  While this integration of health services provided by the health workforce is ideal, often times the health workforce becomes overburdened, or worse, burnt-out. A contributing factor to the overburdening of the health workforce is the chronic health workers shortage. It will be no surprise when the MDGs are not met given the current health workforce shortage, an estimated 4.2 million health workers, with 1.5 million needed in Africa alone. However, looking ahead to the UN Post-Development Agenda, increasing the health workforce significantly will be imperative to success.

Health workers are the backbone of a healthy society and without them, health goals of the international community will not be reached.  While World Health Workers Week has come and gone acknowledging the backbone of a health society should be a constant effort.

Follow #healthworkerscount @MSHHealthImpact @IMC_Worldwide and @USAIDGH for more on this topic.

New Support for NTDs to Drive Progress Forward


photo 1NTDs

This afternoon, global health leaders convened in Paris to discuss progress made in the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The event, titled Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases: A Conversation on Progress, coincided with the release of a new report highlighting gains over the past two years.

Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization; Bill Gates, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and several other expert panelists including Chris Viehbacher, CEO of Sanofi;  Dr. Onésime Ndayishimiye, National Director of Burundi’s Neglected Tropical Disease & Blindness Control Program; and French Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Hon. Marisol Touraine, announced deepened commitments for efforts to control and eliminate the most common NTDs by 2020 — including a $120 million pledge from the World Bank, a new collaboration to combat soil-transmitted helminthes (STH) and accelerated research and development efforts lead by pharmaceutical companies in conjunction with nonprofits.

The broad reach and attention of today’s event signals the fact that controlling and eliminating NTDs is embraced by a global community of national leaders, policy makers and donors. In addition, there is broad recognition that addressing NTDs is a crucial component of eliminating poverty and achieving development goals.

Echoing this fact, Dr. Tim Evans, World Bank Director of Health, Nutrition and Population stated during the event that NTDs are major constraints to development and addressing them will boost shared prosperity.

As detailed in the Uniting to Combat NTDs report and score card, progress on NTDs has accelerated quickly over the past two years. Pharmaceutical companies are now meeting 100 percent of requests for drugs, and endemic countries taking ownership of NTD programs. To date, 74 countries – roughly two-thirds of all NTD-endemic countries – have now developed national plans to help guide their control and elimination efforts.

Of particular note, Nigeria and Ethiopia, two countries with high NTD burdens, made national commitments to end NTDs. Nigeria launched its master NTD plan in February with the goal of providing treatment to more than 60 million people annually over the next five years. Ethiopia, the country with the highest trachoma burden, launched its national plan in June 2013. Success in Nigeria and Ethiopia would significantly decrease the global burden of NTDs worldwide.

Pages from NTD Report Final (sm)These positive gains are cause for optimism, but challenges still remain. While the chart to the left (click to view larger) shows a steady increase in drug donation and delivery, only 36 percent of people in need received all the drugs they needed in 2012. Mobilizing more financial resources to support program implementation, doing more to leverage the value of donated drugs and increasing collaboration across sectors are just a few ways the global community can further accelerate progress.

While donors, pharmaceuticals and NGOs are an integral part of the solution, endemic countries will drive progress forward by continuing to develop, own and implement their programs in a sustainable way.

“I always believe in country ownership,” Dr. Margaret Chan said. “We’re here to support your efforts.”

We applaud the work done by endemic countries, NGOs, pharmaceutical companies, multilateral organizations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and look forward to the path towards 2020.

Click to view the event video and full report.

Feeling Optimistic on the 2nd Anniversary of the London Declaration for NTDs


Photo by Esther Havens

Photo by Esther Havens

Tomorrow is the second anniversary of the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) – the largest coordinated effort against NTDs to date. Since its launch, governments across the globe have committed to end NTDs and hundreds of millions of people have been treated for these diseases.  This week we’re recognizing the remarkable progress and momentum achieved since the formation of this global partnership where 13 pharmaceutical companies; the governments of the United States, United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; World Bank and other international organizations formed a global partnership to control and eliminate 10 NTDs by the end of the decade – a commitment that Sabin Vaccine Institute’s president Dr. Peter Hotez calls a “tipping point for the world’s poor.”

The London Declaration has served as a roadmap to improve the lives of the 1.4 billion people worldwide affected by NTDs, most of whom are among the world’s poorest. Since then,  regional committees, endemic and donor countries, NGO and pharmaceutical partners throughout the world committed to and prioritized controlling and eliminating NTDs. Eliminating NTDs is understood to be one of the most cost-effective and comprehensive ways to achieve development goals and eliminate poverty. While we still have a long way to go, measured progress has been made and we’re feeling optimistic about the route to 2020, and we know that with increased funds and political commitment, the number of people needlessly suffering from NTDs will decrease.

In Asia this past year:

  • 6 countries started the process to verify elimination of lymphatic filariasis (LF) – an extremely painful and debilitating NTD
  • 6 countries reached the global target of deworming at least 75% of school-aged children
  •  India’s Joint Secretary in the Ministry on Health, Dr. Anshu Prakash, stated the country’s commitment to the controlling and eliminating of NTDs – an important announcement considering India bears 35% of the world’s burden for NTDs
  • Following the launch of the Regional Strategic Plans for WPRO and SEARO, more than 10 countries across Asia and the Pacific updated their national plans and renewed their commitment to end NTDs, and East Timor is preparing to launch its national program this year.

In Africa:

  • The Sixth Conference of African Union (AU) Ministers of Health (CAMH6) in April called for increased domestic investment in NTD control and elimination
  • The World Health Organization’s (WHO) 63rd Regional Committee for Africa meeting passed a regional strategic plan to accelerate achievements
  • Three African countries launched national integrated master NTD plans – Nigeria in February, Ethiopia in June and Uganda in September –  totaling more than 30 African countries with such plans.
  • This spring, we learned that Togo is soon to become the first sub-Saharan African country to eliminate LF

And in Latin America and the Caribbean:

While the progress in these regions is promising, more needs to be done by both endemic countries and partners. If we are to truly eliminate poverty and the diseases that perpetuate it, we need sustained support from all stakeholders: endemic countries, donors, regional and global committees, NGOs and more. As managing director of the Global Network, Dr. Neeraj Mistry, recently stated in an op-ed, NTD control and elimination efforts must also integrated into broader efforts to eliminate poverty and achieve global development goals:

“By including NTDs and specific targets in the post-2015 development agenda, we will support country-led efforts to reach control and elimination goals, improve the health and well-being of hundreds of millions of people, and accelerate progress in global poverty reduction.”

Ending the 10 most common NTDs by 2020 was an ambitious goal but the progress of the last two years proves the global community is up for the challenge, and will continue to fight until NTDs no longer exist.