Category Archives: NTDs

Toward a Healthy Future: Working Together to End Neglected Tropical Diseases & Malnutrition

 

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Together with a wide range of experts and advocates from the neglected tropical disease (NTD), nutrition and broader development community, the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases is excited to launch a new policy brief.

Toward a Healthy Future: Working Together to End Neglected Tropical Diseases & Malnutrition – examines the relationship between NTDs and malnutrition, and the actions needed to address both of these challenges. The evidence linking intestinal worm infections and schistosomiasis underscore the importance of tackling these two problems together:

  • NTDs and malnutrition are geographically linked: all of the 34 countries carrying the highest levels of malnutrition are also endemic for NTDs.  In fact, ten of these countries make up 90 percent of the global NTD burden.
  • Poor nutrition increases susceptibility to parasitic disease infections, while NTDs, like intestinal worms and schistosomiasis, are underlying causes of stunting, wasting and micronutrient deficiencies.
  • Poor access to water, sanitation and poor hygiene practices are well-known contributing factors to the spread of NTDs

Encouraging work is being done to address these issues. A number of multilateral organizations, governments, NGOs and endemic countries are already implementing programs that deliver treatments for intestinal worms and schistosomiasis alongside other nutrition and health interventions, effectively leveraging policies and delivery strategies. The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014, published by the Food & Agricultural Organization, revealed that the children suffering from undernutrition has fallen by 100 million over the last decade. The United to Combat NTDs: Delivering on Promises and Driving Progress report showed that in 2013, nearly 1.35 billion NTD treatments were donated and over 70 countries developed national NTD plans.

While these are important steps in the right direction, a funding gap stands in the way of ensuring that these treatments reach the people who need them. To reduce malnutrition and control and eliminate NTDs, the global health community must build upon this work and scale up deworming alongside nutrition interventions, such as Vitamin A and iron supplementation.

The Global Network’s policy brief calls for international policymakers and advocates to:

  • Recognize the impacts of NTDs and malnutrition and the clear benefits of addressing these issues in tandem.
  • Expand access to routine deworming treatments for all populations at risk, including pre-school- and school-aged children, women of childbearing age and pregnant women through existing treatments and delivery platforms.
  • Include deworming as a strategy to improve health and nutrition for mothers and children
  • Ensure sustainability by simultaneously investing in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and other social determinants of health.
  • Increase resources and link policies that facilitate joint programming and partnerships
  • Mobilize greater political and financial support for NTDs and malnutrition during international and regional fora.

We hope you’ll read the policy brief here, and contribute to the conversation on Twitter by joining our Twitter chat on Wednesday, October 22 at 2:00PM EDT using the hashtag #NTDsNutrition.

VlogBrother John Green Captures Trip to Ethiopia through Video Blogs

 

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By Angad Dhindsa and Emily Conron

This summer John Green, the author of A Fault in Our Stars and one half of the video-blogging VlogBrothers, took a trip to Ethiopia with Bill Gates. Despite John’s admitted fear of mosquito-borne illness, he enthusiastically traveled to East Africa to witness the region’s dramatic improvements in health care and reduced infant mortality. In addition, John was able to learn how he – as a video blogger and public figure – could improve the health of poor communities in the region.

Throughout his trip, John captured a series of video blogs to share with his devoted followers – referred to as “Nerdfighters.” John mentions that in contrast to the United States, poor communities in Ethiopia lack access to social media, YouTube and other mediums often used to connect with others far away and amplify important messages.

To cap off the trip John started a fundraising campaign with water.org for Ethiopia to continue developing sustainable water solutions. Bill Gates decided this was a great idea and agreed to match $100,000 of donations if they were raised.

For more on John Green’s trip, read some of his quotes and watch his videos below:


John: “Hank, I’ve found humans to be extraordinarily generous within their social networks, like think of how quickly we support friends and colleagues in need. But lack of access to like, Tumblr and YouTube makes most people living in absolute poverty totally voiceless in our online world, and inevitably we begin to imagine their problems as others, as things that don’t happen to us.”


John: “But this brings up an interesting problem, which is that the internet in Ethiopia is CRAZY SLOW. [Dial-up modem noise plays] I mean, like, yes, that slow. That makes it hard to watch a lot of creators, it makes it hard to comment; it also takes forever for Tumblr to load. And we talked about how that makes it hard to be an active participant in online communities. Almost all of their social media interaction happens with people they know in real life. To which I said, “What is real life??””


John: “But it was also hard to watch, it’s hard to see kids suffer, and mothers worry, and to feel powerless before it, and it’s hard because these are problems that I was unaccustomed to, I mean the poor are voiceless in too much of our contemporary discourse. This kid’s mom doesn’t have a Twitter or a Youtube channel. And so we don’t hear about her challenges as directly as we hear about others. Maybe that’s part of what makes it easier to look away too, but regardless, I kept doing it; I have hours of footage of my camera looking away.”

Clearly, the VlogBrothers have a fresh take on the challenges of international development after this trip and a unique platform with which to share their new insights. Their “Nerdfighter” community is famous for their generosity – and creativity – in responding to social problems, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for a variety of causes through their annual Project for Awesome, a YouTube crowdfunding campaign where members of the Nerdfighter community compete with creative videos advocating for different charities to win part of a pot of money raised by the community. This year, END7 will be encouraging our growing community of student supporters to create videos for the contest in the hopes of both raising money for NTD treatment programs around the world and raising awareness of NTDs among a new audience. We’re excited to see what the VlogBrothers think of next!

Ecuador Becomes Second Country in the World to Eliminate River Blindness

 

With help from the Carter Center and the Pan American Health Organization, Ecuador has officially become the second country in the world to achieve elimination of onchocerciasis (river blindness).

To eliminate onchocerciasis in Ecuador, the country had to overcome a major obstacle — Simulium exiguum; the main vector in Ecuador is exceptional at transmitting the disease. Ecuador’s Ministry of Health had been distributing medication in the country since 1990 — halting distribution in 2010 after transmission of the disease was successfully interrupted.

Watch a video from the Carter Center to see how treatment reached some of the most remote communities in Ecuador:

Ecuador is the second country in the world to receive verification from the World Health Organization in eliminating onchocerciasis after Colombia in 2013. The next challenge being undertaken in the fight against onchocerciasis in the Americas is addressing the disease in the scattered and migratory Yanomani population who live in the border area between Venezuela and Brazil.

Read the Pan American Health Organization’s press release here.

Neglected No More: A Post-2015 Framework that Delivers for NTDs

By Helen Hamilton, Policy Advisor on NTDs at Sightsavers

This week the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) community will come together at the NNN – a welcome acronym for the Non-government Development Organisations Neglected Tropical Disease network. Together, we’ll be reflecting on achievements such as the global trachoma mapping project and the challenges ahead if we are to achieve our elimination goals.

At the same time, across the Atlantic, world leaders in New York will turn their attention to questions of poverty eradication and sustainable development in the post-2015 development agenda.

Today many millions benefit from the huge advances and scale up in the NTD response but many others won’t unless more is done to reach the most vulnerable across the globe – those already marginalised and underserved by national and global development. For the NTD community, the post-2015 dialogues are a huge opportunity both to ensure the specific inclusion of NTDs within the framework and provide an enabling environment, such as improved hygiene alongside water and sanitation, which supports the elimination and control of these diseases.

We know that nothing has more impact on health than poverty and marginalisation and this holds true for NTDs. That’s why we’re calling for a post-2015 development framework that includes NTDs and also addresses their major risk factors, such as inadequate access to health and water, sanitation and hygiene services.

Why is this important to the NTD response? Because one billion people globally who are affected by NTDs precisely because they are marginalised, vulnerable and living in poverty. Their health needs and rights are not met and upheld.

A new focus

The focus of post-2015 has been addressing broad systematic inequalities that keep people in poverty and allow diseases to flourish. The focus on delivering lasting change and the recognition that equity and wellbeing must be central in this new agenda aligns squarely with the NTD response.

One of the major ideas to gain traction in post-2015 discussions is ‘leave no one behind’. This shift would mean that no post-2015 goal could be reached unless it meets the need of everyone – in particular poor and marginalised groups such as people with disabilities, children and older people.

To do this, we need a framework that puts people at the centre that addresses the structural barriers to accessing health services, such as making health services accessible and inclusive to people with disabilities.

A new health narrative

Under the MDGs, there were three health-focused goals but this is unlikely to be the case for the post-2015 framework. The health sector has united behind the call for one goal that supports healthy lives for all. Building strong and resilient health systems are critical to achieving and sustaining NTD goals. Health systems are the only way to ensure that everyone everywhere can access the healthcare they need, including targeted NTD services, when they need it and in a way that is affordable.

A dedicated NTD target

Within any health goal we need a specific NTD target that delivers on preventive, curative and rehabilitative care for people at risk or affected by NTDs. To do this effectively and support the NTD response, it will need to draw on existing targets and objectives that the NTD community is working towards, such as the WHO NTD roadmap and the London Declaration on NTDs.

Neglected no more

The post-2015 discussions are primarily a question of people’s opportunity to influence their future. Good health plays a critical role in empowering people to achieve other development goals. Neglected populations who have been subject to centuries of ill health caused by neglected tropical diseases must be prioritised within any new framework if we are truly committed to leave no one behind.

Improving health is not just a case of tackling disease but influencing the wider determinants of health such as poverty, employment, housing and education that allow NTDs to exist and flourish. We need a framework that takes a dual approach to NTDs – addressing them directly through specific targets and indicators while also recognising that universal health coverage within stronger health systems and eliminating extreme poverty are critical to ending NTDs.