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