Category Archives: NTD Enlightment

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