Category Archives: NTDs

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.

Will the Agenda of the November 2014 G20 Leaders Summit Help End NTDs?

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By Haley Brightman and Amber Cashwell

With the G20 Leaders Summit quickly approaching, the Global Network has released its G20 Call to Action. This policy brief outlines the exceptional opportunity for G20 leaders to take concrete action to address global health priorities, including NTDs, during this year’s discussions, to be held on November 15-16 in Brisbane, Australia. The Global Network’s G20 Call to Action examines how and why the G20 is well-equipped to tackle NTDs and advance its overarching goal to catalyze sustainable, inclusive growth.

Why should the G20 address global health?

While the Summit will focus on strengthening the global economy and building resilience, G20 leaders must also address the root causes that undermine these efforts. NTDs contribute to the suffering of more than 1.4 billion people, and are linked to reduced worker productivity and wage earning potential.

Trachoma, for example, which can lead to permanent blindness, has caused an estimated global productivity loss of US$5.3 billion. Recognizing the impact of this disease, Australia has added trachoma control and elimination to its development policy. As host of this year’s summit, Australia has a unique opportunity to galvanize support among the G20 for trachoma and other NTDs.

NTDs also contribute to social stigma and increase susceptibility to other diseases like HIV. Equally important, NTDs are associated with anemia, poor nutritional status and lower socioeconomic status.

How can investments in health and NTDs help build strong economies and support equitable growth?

Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott, as President of the G20 this year, recognized that “…you can’t have strong communities without strong economies to sustain them…” In order to develop strong communities, Australia and other G20 leaders must invest in the health of people – the real drivers of growth – and free them from the burden of NTDs.

The Global Program to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GAELF) has already demonstrated that investing in NTD treatment leads to stronger economies. For example, GAELF has treated nearly 600 million people for lymphatic filariasis since 2000, resulting in an economic rate of return estimated at between US $20-30 for every dollar spent on treatment.

But why specifically the G20?

The G20 accounts for 90 percent of global gross domestic product and 94 percent of global official development assistance, putting it in a uniquely opportune position to leverage resources and support for the fight against NTDs. Specifically, the G20 could help maximize the use of public-private partnerships and encourage investments that will close the US$220 million funding gap for NTD treatment. Through public-private partnerships, such as the London Declaration on NTDs, pharmaceutical companies are currently donating nearly all the medicines necessary to treat the most common NTDs –  but more is needed to help these drugs reach the communities that need them. The G20 nations can help close the funding gap for NTD treatment.

Here are 5 ways that the G20 can help end NTDs and build healthy communities and strong economies:

  1. Recognize NTDs as a key underlying constraint to global economic growth.
  2. Highlight the importance of NTD control and elimination programs in the G20 Development Working Group agenda and broader G20 policy statements.
  3. Call on historic and emerging donors to prioritize the issue of NTD control and elimination in their foreign policy, development and poverty reduction agendas.
  4. Call on NTD endemic countries to prioritize NTDs in their national poverty and health plans.
  5. Support inclusion of NTD control and elimination efforts in the final post-2015 development agenda.

 

Stay tuned for more updates on End the Neglect on how Australia can improve health and development across the region in advance of this year’s G20 Leaders Summit and beyond.

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