Photo by Olivier Asselin
By: Mia Wise and Raquel Corona-Parra
On Friday August 30, 2013, the Ministry of Health of Guatemala launched its multi-year, integrated, national plan addressing neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) with support from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The ambitious plan targets the control and elimination of six NTDs by providing deworming medication to children in prioritized municipalities and improving access to clean water in communities affected by NTDs. Even more, Guatemala’s national NTD plan will be linked the country’s Zero Hunger Plan which tackles hunger and malnutrition in the country.
More specifically, this integrated plan will target the control and elimination of onchocerciasis, soil-transmitted helminths (STHs, or intestinal parasites), Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, trachoma, and leprosy from 2013 to 2015. The Guatemalan Minister of Health Jorge Villavicencio said the increased attention placed on these diseases is essential for reducing malnutrition and poverty in Guatemala as these diseases represent an incredible health burden on communities in the country, trapping already marginalized populations in the cycle of poverty.
Even More Good News…
Guatemala was not the only country focused on NTD treatment and control this summer. The Council of Ministers of Health of Central America and the Dominican Republic ( regional meeting on June 27 and 28 in San José, Costa Rica. The Global Network team was happy to collaborate with COMISCA at this meeting – where they shared information on upcoming challenges and solutions in NTD treatment efforts, and global and regional policy activities.
COMISCA is a political faction of the System for Central American Integration (SICA) comprised of the Ministers and Secretariats of Health of eight Member Countries. The Council strives to ensure the right to health care services to the people of Central America and the Dominican Republic, and is influential in determining health care priorities within the region.
The Global Network was delighted that COMISCA recognized the importance of NTD control and elimination with regards to the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the 2020 Sustainable Development Goals. The Ministers of Health also approved the addition of NTDs in their closing report – a result that has paved the way for NTD control and elimination action items to be included in the next COMISCA Regional Health Plan.
And More Collaboration…
The Global Network was also invited to participate at the Forum of the Health Sector in Central America and the Dominican Republic (RESSCAD), during its annual meeting held in Guatemala on July 17. RESSCAD meetings serve as another opportunity for integration among the ministers of health of the region.
During the meeting, PAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne stressed that NTDs are the clearest example of preventable health inequities. She added that prioritizing these diseases, which affect the most vulnerable and marginalized populations, is a public health, political, and moral imperative. RESSCAD will now be placing a stronger emphasis on intersectoral collaboration and NTD control and will review progress made at the next meeting in 2014.
The launch of Guatemala’s national plan on NTDs and the increased attention to NTDs made by COMISCA and RESSCAD are all great news for the NTD community!
June 7th, 2013
On June 17-18 in Northern Ireland, leaders of the G8 will meet to discuss global priorities for the coming year. Under the leadership of British Prime Minister David Cameron, the 2013 G8 Summit discussion topics include advancing trade, increasing tax compliance and improving global transparency. Though they are tasked with a long list of action items, these leaders should continue to prioritize human rights and global development issues, most pressing of which is global hunger.
To catch the G8’s attention, the UK government (led by its Department for International Development), the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and the Brazilian Government will co-host a hunger summit titled “Nutrition for Growth”. Set for tomorrow, June 8, this high-level event will bring together business leaders, scientists, governments and civil society to make political and financial commitments towards improving nutrition worldwide. Through proper nutrition, kids will be able to grow physically and mentally like they should, and pregnant women will be able to keep themselves and their babies safe (also like they should).
However, if the world really wants to get serious about ensuring that everyone can access proper nutrition, we need to look beyond food and recognize that malnutrition is also caused by disease. Specifically, neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) have a big nutritional impact on the millions of women and children they afflict around the world.
NTDs infect one in six people, including more than half a billion children, and undermine the effects of good nutrition. Even if children have enough to eat, parasitic worm infections (namely roundworm, whipworm, hookworm and schistosoma haematobium – the nutrient-eating parasite that causes schistosomiasis) deprive them of key nutrients essential for growth and development. Recognizing NTDs as a cause of malnutrition is important for achieving better nutrition.
But recognition is not enough.
Global leaders need to create actionable strategies to combat NTDs and hunger. Following on the heels of the Nutrition for Growth event, the G8 Summit is poised to promote this cause. The tools to control and eliminate NTDs have already been developed in an affordable form; a packet of pills can treat one person against seven of the most common NTDs for one year. At a cost of just 50 cents per person annually, treatment of NTDs is cost-efficient and is considered one of the “best buys” in public health. Especially considering the current economic climate, this safe, efficacious and high impact treatment is worthy of global attention.
With pressure from the Nutrition for Growth event, the IF Campaign and concerned citizens like you and me, the end of hunger and malnutrition is attainable. As pressure is kept on global leaders in the run up to the G8 Summit, we hope that the global community can continue to work together to create a comprehensive approach to food security and good nutrition―one that includes eliminating NTDs as a public health threat once and for all.
January 15th, 2013
NTDs are tied to nearly every major global health issue we face today – economic development.
To highlight the relationship between NTDs and other major global issues and to show how important it is to help fight these diseases, the Global Network put together a few new videos.
NTDs & Water
NTDs & Nutrition
We fight these diseases because of the horrific impact that they have on poor communities, and because we know they can be beaten by the end of this decade.