Category Archives: NTD Enlightment

A Call to Compassion and Unity

Dr. Ariel Pablos-Mendez speaks at A Call to Compassion

Dr. Ariel Pablos-Mendez speaks at A Call to Compassion

Over the past nine years, USAID’s Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Program has delivered more than 1.3 billion treatments to nearly 600 million people across 32 countries. USAID’s work with NTDs is a shining example of the power of public-private partnerships to leverage existing resources that stretch the impact of U.S. foreign aid dollars. In the FY 2015 budget, Congress funded USAID’s NTD Program at $100 million, demonstrating continued U.S. leadership in global health.

Ahead of Pope Francis’ historic address to the U.S. Congress this Thursday, the Global Network was pleased to host an event celebrating the bipartisan commitment of the U.S. government in the fight against NTDs. The reception, “A Call to Compassion: Spotlight on NTDs,” sought to build further support for the NTD cause among Members of Congress, the Administration, the broader policy community, private sector partners and lay leaders in the Catholic Church.

Rep. Chris Smith speaks at A Call to Compassion

Rep. Chris Smith speaks at A Call to Compassion

We were thrilled to welcome Rep.Chris Smith (R-NJ) to speak, along with Reverend Thomas Streit, C.S.C., the Founder of the University of Notre Dame’s Haiti Program, Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, Assistant Administrator for Global Health and Child and Maternal Survival Coordinator at USAID and Dr. Leonard Friedland, Vice President and Director of Scientific Affairs and Public Health for Vaccines in North America at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Reverend Pat Conroy, S.J., Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, concluded the program with a benediction.

We also appreciated the support of our co-sponsors: RTI International, FHI 360, the Catholic Health Association of the United States, GSK, University of Notre Dame’s Eck Institute of Global Health and Advocates for Development Assistance, as well as the coordination received from the Congressional Caucus on Malaria and NTDs — co-chaired by Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) — and the Congressional Global Health Caucus — co-chaired by Rep. David Reichert (R-WA) and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN).

Saint DamienSaint Damien of Molokai was a great source of inspiration for the event. St. Damien dedicated the last sixteen years of his life to caring for those with leprosy on the island of Molokai, Hawaii. He eventually succumbed to the disease in 1889 and was canonized in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI. Leprosy is one of 17 NTDs targeted for control or elimination by the World Health Organization.

More than 1.4 billion of the world’s poorest people suffer from NTDs, including 500 million children. These diseases perpetuate poverty by causing blindness, malnutrition, anemia and disfigurement — preventing children from attending school and parents from going to work. Treatment for these diseases can cost as little as 50 cents per person, per year.

Guests at the reception learn about NTDs

Guests at the reception learn about NTDs

Inspired by Pope Francis’ call for Catholic communities to “become islands of mercy in a vast sea of indifference,” a historic conference will be held at the Vatican in May 2016. Sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, the entity that coordinates and promotes the health care work undertaken by the Catholic Church, the conference will focus on “diseases of solidarity” – both rare and neglected tropical diseases. The Global Network is honored to be serving as the official planning partner for the NTD stream of the conference.

NTDs are a pervasive issue, threatening the health of one-fifth of the world’s population. It is a problem that cannot be tackled by one sector working alone. As Pope Benedict XVI said, “Saint Damien teaches us to choose the good fight, not those that lead to division, but those that gather us together in unity.” To see the end of these diseases requires the commitment of politicians, organizations, students, administrators, faith leaders, health care workers — all of us. We are grateful to welcome new partners to the NTD elimination effort and to find new sources of inspiration to sustain this fight.

A Minute with NTD expert: Ellen Agler, Chief Executive Officer of the END Fund

END Fund logo

At the recent “Uniting to Combat NTDs: Translating the London Declaration into Action,” we had a chance to catch up with Ellen Agler, Chief Executive Officer of the END Fund. The END Fund is a private philanthropic fund mobilizing resources for neglected tropical diseases in Africa.

Global Network: What does it take for exposed individuals to fight NTDs?

Ellen Agler: When I was in Mali, I also got a chance to see in addition to the mass drug administration other aspects of the program. There is a huge backlog of trichiasis surgery. Blinding trachoma, if it starts advancing, it is incredibly painful… It feels like sand going over your cornea, and you will go blind if you don’t get this surgery in the advanced stages.

And to see how simple of a surgery it was- that it really only took 10 or 15 minutes. [END Fund] do have this incredible message of about 50 cents per person per year can protect you against these seven diseases that cause disability, cause suffering, cause blindness, and really change the trajectory of your life. And that is a simple message, and I think that we’re all rallying to ensure that we can prevent these diseases, we can treat them in the early stage so that no one has to suffer those diseases.

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The Neglected Egyptian Protest

About two years ago around this time, crowds of protest movements were enveloping the Middle East and North Africa. Protestors were coming together to work towards better representation of people that had the capacity to serve the larger population, rather than the upper elite. In Egypt, particularly about two years ago around this time, the former President of Egypt of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, was forced to step down.

The Middle East region includes about 20 countries, with almost 400 million people living within its span. Of this population, about 65 million people live on less than $2 US dollars a day. Egypt has the largest number of people living in poverty in the Middle East, with 18 percent out of 80.4 million living on less than US$2 per day. Loose labor laws, a lack of strong physical infrastructure and a weakened sense of social justice amounted to an overwhelming amount of unsatisfied civilians that took to Tahrir Square in 2011 and have since been fighting for their just representation by government officials.

Economic burdens and restraints, like those that have affected a large portion of Egypt’s population, not only lead to inequality of employment, resources and infrastructure, but they can also eventually lead to the regression of physical health. When you have such a large population living in under-privileged circumstances, people walk a very thin line of safety when it comes to health services. It may not have stood out as a single issue that raised headlines during the protests, but the lack of policy that suppressed the spread of diseases is also a result of government neglect.

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An Easy Choice

Guest Blogger Aika Jakisheva

We all need a change, we all need to believe that we can make a change, but I think you will agree with me on this one – it is almost impossible. I like many other people lost hope in the idea that change is possible. However something inside kept on telling me that I am wrong and my gut feeling was 100% right. In November 2011, very unexpectedly I joined a group of people who were going on a trip to Rwanda in order to explore various opportunities to contribute to the development of the country. I had the opportunity to meet with the government representatives, local businessman, international investors, directors of charity funds as well as the local people themselves. I was in disbelief that this is the country that has been to hell and back. In 1994 Rwanda was subject to one of the most horrifying genocides of the twentieth century between the two tribes: the Tutsi and the Hutu. I expected to see a troubled society that lost all hope in humanity; I cannot believe how wrong I was. Rwanda today is a prospering and rapidly developing country with amazingly driven and inspirational people. And everyday I was asking myself one question: how?

Certainly a correct and strong leadership is a crucial factor of Rwanda’s success, but there is another significant factor that helps to drive this country forward – hope and this hope was brought to them by charities.

I have visited many projects of non-profit organisations and every visit was a memorable experience. What struck me the most was to see how little is needed in order to change the course of life for the better for so many people. By bringing them food, water, education, medical supplies, what charities do is bring to those people hope and confidence in their bright future. In Rwanda I experienced what we tend to think is naïve and childish. I have experienced that amazing belief that you can make a change in this world – and you really can! Continue reading