Category Archives: Latin America and the Caribbean

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.

Celebrating 10 Years of Bolsa Família, the Widely Successful Brazilian Poverty Alleviation Plan


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Brazil’s Bolsa Familia program contributed to a dramatic drop in poverty and inequality within the country, said Tereza Campello, Minister of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger at a January 29th event at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

The event, titled “A Conversation with Tereza Campello, Brazil’s Minister of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger,” was co-sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Brazil Institute and the World Bank’s Latin America and the Caribbean Region and shed light on some of the progress made in poverty alleviation in the first 10 years of the Bolsa Família program.

Minister Campello began her discussion by saying that poverty and inequality in Brazil has dropped dramatically thanks to three main public policies: a raise in the minimum wage, the expansion of the formal job sector, and the Bolsa Família program. The program was launched in 2003 during former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s term. It is the largest conditional cash transfer program in the world, and is responsible for lifting 22 million people out of poverty. The three main goals of the program are to alleviate poverty and hunger; increase education attendance and reduce school drop-out rates; and improve access to health services for children, pregnant women, and women who are breastfeeding.

Since the beginning of the program, Bolsa Família has assisted over 50 million people — over a quarter of Brazil’s population. In return for direct cash transfers, beneficiaries must ensure their children attend school and receive their vaccinations, and pregnant women must receive prenatal and postpartum care.

Minister Campello highlighted the following achievements from the Bolsa Família program in the focus area of health:

  • 19.4% reduction in infant mortality rate,
  • 52% decrease of chronic infant malnutrition in children up to 6 years of age,
  • 58% reduction in death due to malnutrition,
  • Drop from 16.8% to 14.5% in the rate of stunting in children up to 5 years of age,
  • 50% increase in prenatal care,
  • 46% reduction in deaths from diarrhea, and
  • 99.1% vaccination rate in children.

Its impact has been greatest in the northeast and Amazon regions of the country, where poverty is more prevalent. Additionally, out of the total current beneficiaries of the program, 73% of them are afro-Brazilian women.

The success of Bolsa Família is inspiring many countries around the world. The Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger has received delegations from 63 countries interested in learning more about how the program works. Deborah Wetzel, Country Director for Brazil for the World Bank, said the World Bank is working with the Brazilian government on ways to share the lessons learned with other countries.

Although Bolsa Família has been widely successful, challenges do remain. Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world with a population of more than 200 million people living in more than 5 thousand municipalities. To address this issue, the Brasil Sem Miséria plan (Brazil Without Poverty plan) was launched during President Dilma Rousseff’s term in 2011 in order to expand the reach of the Bolsa Família program. Through this complementary plan, the Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger is currently reaching out to an additional 9 million people who are not part of the Bolsa Família program but are in dire need of support.

Minister Campello closed the conversation by saying that the “end of poverty” is only the beginning. We join the Brazilian government in celebrating the first 10 years of Bolsa Família and we look forward to sharing many more success stories!

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.

Successful NTD Project in Recife, Brazil Gains Recognition for Preventing and Controlling NTDs in Children


By Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, NTD Special Envoy 

As NTD Special Envoy to the Global Network, I am delighted to share with you a great story: the neglected tropical disease (NTD) project in Recife, Brazil won the award for best work experience in surveillance, prevention and integrated control of NTDs, including leprosy, leishmaniasis and other communicable diseases related to poverty, during the 13th EXPOEPI held in October 2013 in Brasília. The NTD project in Recife is a joint effort between the local governments and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases of the Sabin Vaccine Institute.

Organized by the Secretariat of Health Surveillance of the Brazilian Ministry of Health, the National Exhibition of Successful Experiences in Epidemiology, Prevention and Diseases Control (EXPOEPI) brings together managers and technicians in public health from all the federative units to discuss relevant matters in their field and share experiences with one another.  Around 3,000 people participated at this year’s event. Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, Secretary of Health Surveillance of Brazil, said that the importance of this event comes from the motivation and belief that planned actions that are properly implemented, monitored and evaluated can make a very positive difference in  the health of the Brazilian population.

The award specifically recognized the success of the NTD project in the Recife metropolitan area  in preventing  and controlling  communicable diseases through  building integrated teaching tools to motivate the teaching-learning processes of students. Because of this project, 16 thousand students are learning about NTDs and, most importantly, about how to treat and prevent infection. The program is being implemented in three cities in the Pernambuco state (Recife, Olinda, and Jaboatão dos Guararapes) by the local health departments and the Institute of Integral Medicine Professor Fernando Figueria (IMIP). It addresses four NTDs present in the metropolitan area (leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, soil-transmitted helminths, and schistosomiasis) through education, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention activities.

Forty-two public schools in the Recife metropolitan area are implementing the program, indirectly benefiting an additional 70 thousand family members because of the health education and prevention activities, as well as the medical assistance, diagnosis and treatment of the diseases. Additionally, encouraged in large part by the positive results of the project, the Ministry of Health of Brazil conducted a nation-wide campaign to address leprosy and intestinal parasites in March 2013.

We invite you to watch the video “A Small Revolution: A Comprehensive Approach for Neglected Tropical Diseases” to learn more about how the education components were integrated into the school system, to improve the health of the communities of the Recife metropolitan area. You can also view photos of the community social mobilization here.

You can also watch the video “Caravana Prudente: Prevenindo e controlando doenças” to see some of the educational videos that were produced for the NTD project in Recife, in collaboration with the Mediateam Company.

I encourage you to share your stories with us, as well as to feel inspired by our experiences and take action, sponsor or initiate similar activities so that we can together celebrate the end of NTDs in this generation.