Category Archives: WHO

A New WHO Report Brings Fresh Data and Ideas on Ending NTDs



More than 100 million people are affected by one or more neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region. As a former Director of the Pan American Health Organization, I’ve seen the suffering caused by these diseases first-hand. At the same time, I have also learnt what can be achieved when endemic countries and international partners put NTDs – and the people affected by them – front and center in their policies.

The World Health Organization’s Third Report on NTDs, released last month, rightly puts a strong emphasis on equity and shared prosperity – themes that are at the very core of tackling NTDs.

The report, “Investing to Overcome the Global Impact of Neglected Tropical Diseases,” charts a new course by outlining the investments needed to reach the WHO Roadmap goals– a critical guide for the global effort to control and eliminate NTDs by 2020. Importantly, it also examines what needs to be done to achieve universal coverage of all people in need by 2030.

The new WHO report calls attention to progress made, including in the LAC region, which is a source of pride and hope for all involved. The region’s milestones can serve as a model for other endemic countries and show the world what’s truly achievable:

  • In 2013, Colombia became the first country in the world to reach WHO-verified elimination of onchocerciasis (river blindness), followed by Ecuador in 2014.
  • Guatemala and Mexico are on track to eliminate transmission of onchocerciasis, leaving just one border area between Brazil and Venezuela with ongoing transmission of the disease.
  • More than half of the region’s countries with endemic Chagas disease have eliminated transmission by the disease’s principal domestic insect vector, and 20 of 21 endemic countries have implemented universal blood screening for Chagas.
  • Costa Rica, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago are no longer endemic for lymphatic filariasis as of 2011. More than 7 million people were treated for this disease in 2013, most of them in Haiti.


Landmark commitments like the 2012 London Declaration on NTDs and the 2013 World Health Assembly NTD resolution have helped sustain political will towards this effort. These commitments have influenced further action in the Americas, where commitments from the Organization of American States and the Council of Ministers of Health of Central America and the Dominican Republic accelerated the fight against NTDs.

Globally, over 800 million NTD treatments were delivered in 2012 alone– an outstanding result achieved through strong partnerships with pharmaceutical companies, endemic countries, affected communities, bilateral and multilateral organizations and implementing partners.

But, we still must finish what we’ve started and accelerate progress towards the 2020 goals. This will help set the stage for success as we look ahead to achieve universal coverage of everyone in need by 2030.

Many of the people affected by NTDs live in middle income countries, and the report calls for more domestic resources to be mobilized and more equitably distributed, including among the poorest and most marginalized people. Similarly, there is significant scope for development banks and donors, as well as emerging players like the BRICS, to finance NTD efforts by employing innovative models and leveraging public-private partnerships. Cross-sectoral collaboration with the WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene); nutrition; maternal and child health; and education communities is increasing access to NTD interventions, while also enhancing impact and ensuring sustainability.

The WHO report endorses the fact that controlling and eliminating NTDs paves the way for poverty alleviation and shared prosperity for all. As I’ve said before, targets to control and eliminate NTDs must be included in global efforts to address poverty and inequality, including the post-2015 development agenda and the corresponding Sustainable Development Goals.

I encourage you to read the full WHO report here.

New Support for NTDs to Drive Progress Forward


photo 1NTDs

This afternoon, global health leaders convened in Paris to discuss progress made in the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The event, titled Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases: A Conversation on Progress, coincided with the release of a new report highlighting gains over the past two years.

Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization; Bill Gates, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and several other expert panelists including Chris Viehbacher, CEO of Sanofi;  Dr. Onésime Ndayishimiye, National Director of Burundi’s Neglected Tropical Disease & Blindness Control Program; and French Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Hon. Marisol Touraine, announced deepened commitments for efforts to control and eliminate the most common NTDs by 2020 — including a $120 million pledge from the World Bank, a new collaboration to combat soil-transmitted helminthes (STH) and accelerated research and development efforts lead by pharmaceutical companies in conjunction with nonprofits.

The broad reach and attention of today’s event signals the fact that controlling and eliminating NTDs is embraced by a global community of national leaders, policy makers and donors. In addition, there is broad recognition that addressing NTDs is a crucial component of eliminating poverty and achieving development goals.

Echoing this fact, Dr. Tim Evans, World Bank Director of Health, Nutrition and Population stated during the event that NTDs are major constraints to development and addressing them will boost shared prosperity.

As detailed in the Uniting to Combat NTDs report and score card, progress on NTDs has accelerated quickly over the past two years. Pharmaceutical companies are now meeting 100 percent of requests for drugs, and endemic countries taking ownership of NTD programs. To date, 74 countries – roughly two-thirds of all NTD-endemic countries – have now developed national plans to help guide their control and elimination efforts.

Of particular note, Nigeria and Ethiopia, two countries with high NTD burdens, made national commitments to end NTDs. Nigeria launched its master NTD plan in February with the goal of providing treatment to more than 60 million people annually over the next five years. Ethiopia, the country with the highest trachoma burden, launched its national plan in June 2013. Success in Nigeria and Ethiopia would significantly decrease the global burden of NTDs worldwide.

Pages from NTD Report Final (sm)These positive gains are cause for optimism, but challenges still remain. While the chart to the left (click to view larger) shows a steady increase in drug donation and delivery, only 36 percent of people in need received all the drugs they needed in 2012. Mobilizing more financial resources to support program implementation, doing more to leverage the value of donated drugs and increasing collaboration across sectors are just a few ways the global community can further accelerate progress.

While donors, pharmaceuticals and NGOs are an integral part of the solution, endemic countries will drive progress forward by continuing to develop, own and implement their programs in a sustainable way.

“I always believe in country ownership,” Dr. Margaret Chan said. “We’re here to support your efforts.”

We applaud the work done by endemic countries, NGOs, pharmaceutical companies, multilateral organizations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and look forward to the path towards 2020.

Click to view the event video and full report.

NTD Workshop in Nigeria Equips States with Necessary Skills and Resources to Succeed


Together with international partners and NGOs, the government of Nigeria has the potential to drastically expand and strengthen their neglected tropical disease (NTD) program to treat and protect its population from the devastating impact of NTDs. Nigeria bears the largest NTD burden within sub-Saharan Africa, but the country’s national plan to tackle NTDs has already laid the groundwork for controlling and eliminating these diseases by 2020. However, additional training, especially at the state level, will help Nigeria scale up and maintain a sustainable NTD program that could lead to the control and elimination of NTDs by 2020.

Nigeria’s geography poses a unique challenge in the fight against NTDs. For example, each Nigerian state possesses its own quasi-autonomous state ministry of health — each with its own integrated NTD program. With this challenge in mind, The World Health Organization (WHO) and partners developed a training program for the first week in February for the 36 Nigerian states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to provide representatives with the tools and technical skills needed to establish, scale up and sustain integrated NTD programs within their respective states. The training was supported by The Envision project, The United project, and was attended by state representatives, including federal ministers of health, members of federal NTD teams and zonal coordinators and NGO partners.

Highlights from the 5-day training were shared through Twitter, thanks to @NTDNigeria and RTIinterntional:


Throughout the training, facilitators from Nigeria and the U.S. led sessions on scaling up integrated MDA programs, monitoring and evaluation, data management and advocacy. The facilitators also went over some basic but essential tasks – including filling out the appropriate forms to apply for NTD medications.

During her session, Global Network senior program officer Wangechi Thuo stressed the importance of effective advocacy in creating sustainable NTD programs. She led participants through exercises, demonstrating how to effectively raise awareness about NTDs among key policy influencers with the goal of garnering sustained ownership, leadership, and commitment from governments and their partners for NTD programs


The training also brought together key government partners including Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency. Together, partners discussed ways to better and more effectively distribute NTD medicine to populations in need. While Nigeria has the medicine necessary to treat its population, delivering the medicine to more than a hundred million Nigerians is a difficult task.

As the globe moves towards NTD elimination by 2020, Nigeria must remain a top priority given its large NTD burden. Thanks to this month’s NTD workshop, Nigeria’s government expects to see more and more people treated for NTDs, and more precise monitoring and evaluation of drug delivery in the coming year. Through continued government and partner support, Nigeria can see the end of NTDs. In the words of Dr. Bridget Okuaguale, Director of Public Health (DPH) at the Federal Ministry of Health, “We must work as a team, or we cannot go anywhere.”

Calling All Collaborators to Eliminate Intestinal Worms in Children


Pictured from left to right: John A. Jufuor, President of the Republic of Ghana (2001-2009) and Global Network NTD Special Envoy; Bill Lin, director of Worldwide Corporate Contributions at Johnson & Johnson; Dr. Lorenzo Savioli, director of the Department of NTDs at WHO; Kathy Spahn, President and CEO of Helen Keller International (HKI); and Richard Besser, chief health and medical editor at ABC News

Pictured from left to right: John A. Kufuor, President of the Republic of Ghana (2001-2009) and Global Network NTD Special Envoy; Bill Lin, director of Worldwide Corporate Contributions at Johnson & Johnson; Dr. Lorenzo Savioli, director of the Department of NTDs at WHO; Kathy Spahn, President and CEO of Helen Keller International (HKI); and Dr. Richard Besser, chief health and medical editor at ABC News

“What we want to do is produce quality of life for the people.” – H.E. John A. Kufuor, President of the Republic of Ghana (2001-2009) and Global Network NTD Special Envoy

We have been anxiously awaiting the United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) sixty-eighth kick-off session, “The Post-2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage.” Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) have impeded critical breakthroughs in development efforts for too long – plaguing one in six people globally, including half a billion children. While we have the medicine, which costs just 50 cents per person per year, we must garner greater attention, collaboration and political will to see the end of horrible suffering in the world’s most neglected communities.

We are certainly hopeful.

It was fitting that in the height of UNGA meetings, the Global Network, Johnson & Johnson, Children Without Worms, The Task Force for Global Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) co-hosted a conversation to identify innovative ways we can eliminate soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections – one of the key diseases undercutting many Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“Business as usual” simply wouldn’t do! So, our event, “Innovate & Integrate: Multi-sectoral Approaches for Eliminating Intestinal Worms in Children,” set out to explore how and why organizations in the fields of NTDs; water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); nutrition; maternal and child health; and education can collaborate on this issue to ensure lasting advancements.


Bill Lin presents on NTDs and WASH

Bill Lin presents on NTDs and WASH

Bill Lin, director of Worldwide Corporate Contributions at Johnson & Johnson, opened with his experience growing up in a rural area outside of Hong Kong. Forever imprinted on him was the constant chanting of “wash your hands” and “don’t put your hands in your mouth.” “You [couldn’t] get clean water just by flipping a faucet.” Bill explained.

Bleak living conditions then and now have caused the perpetual transmission of intestinal worms. Therefore, we must not only distribute medicines to control STH infections but also work with partners to stop them from spreading. “There is a clear need for the education [and] health sectors to work together” to encourage behavioral changes.

Dr. Richard Besser, chief health and medical editor at ABC News then asked tough questions to our panelists: H.E. John A. Kufur, former president of the Republic of Ghana (2001-2009); Dr. Lorenzo Savioli, director of the Department of NTDs at WHO; and Ms. Kathy Spahn, President and CEO of Helen Keller International (HKI).

Recognizing that we were talking about “a disease that isn’t killing a lot of people” during a “busy week in New York,” Dr. Besser asked Dr. Savioli, “why does [STH] deserve attention?”

Optimistically, Dr. Lorenzo responded, “We can do something about it. We are eradicating guinea worm, we have the drugs to treat intestinal helminths … we can really interrupt transmission. We can make a difference with the tools we have in our hands.”

President Kufuor chimed in, “our goal is to seek solutions.” Speaking from his experiences in making NTD and WASH advancements as President of Ghana, including tremendous strides in the effort to eliminate guinea worm, President Kufuor noted that behavior change was critical, including “show[ing]  [people] how to boil water.” President Kufuor also stressed that the successes he oversaw were due to implementing policies that educated the public and provided infrastructure, and knowing when to “seek international help.”

Dr. Besser then asked Kathy, “Why does HKI think this is an important problem to tackle?”

Kathy answered that STH infections are “incredibly disabling” and threaten worker productivity, children’s attendance in school and the ability of children to achieve. We’re “really talking about the posterity of the country unless these diseases are tackled,” Kathy said.

Dr. Besser then asked President Kufuor about the widespread impact of intestinal worms. President Kufuor stated, “Worms prevent kids from getting full benefits. … The economy isn’t well when people have worms. … We tackle the problem from the source.”

President Kufuor also touched on a devastating consequence of STH infections: the impact on pregnant women and their babies: “Even with mothers, if they do not look after themselves well with what they eat, what they drink, then the fetus will not mature the way it should.”

Addressing the economic impact, Dr. Besser asked Dr. Savioli, “What evidence is there that these type of control efforts make a difference?” Dr. Savioli recognized that there is huge economic growth occurring in Africa, and that “those countries doing best in the African continent with NTDs are the ones that are doing better economically.”

Asking Kathy about whether it’s “idealistic to think that you can accomplish cross-sector integration,” Dr. Besser said, “Can it happen?” To which Kathy responded, “Nothing can happen unless you work cross-sectorally.”

Wrapping up the interviews, Dr. Besser asked, “If the MDGs don’t list NTDs, what does that mean?”

Dr. Savioli noted, “We need to put pressure to make sure that happens” and that, thanks to “a unique relationship between international organizations, NGOs, endemic states and the private sector,” we have a “historically unique” opportunity “in the history of public health.”

Kathy shared that we need to go beyond the drugs, giving the example of HKI’s partnership with Johnson & Johnson to develop curriculums in education – hand washing, face washing – in Cambodia to realize tremendous successes.

It’s no wonder that after the interviews and audience Q&A, Dr. Besser said, he has “about 50 more questions [he] would love to ask” and that we’re “fortunate to have such different perspectives on this problem.” STH is different in that the solution is known, and that “it’s a problem of will and resources to implement the solution,” Dr. Besser concluded.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Savioli stated, “We have the scientific evidence that when you treat people regularly, the morbidity goes down.” However, “countries have to be at the center of it” because “countries that have done well have performed better” in economic, health and other development markers.

“You deprive the country if you don’t do it,” Kathy closed.

Thanks to all for such an engaging, thought-provoking event! We look forward to seeing how cross-sectoral collaborationcan make a difference in STH control and elimination in children.