Last week, the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases and the Sabin Vaccine Institute hosted a well-attended parliamentary workshop in Germany to raise awareness and deepen support for the cause of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).
The event was organized in conjunction with the Global Network’s on-the-ground partners and included presentations from Dr. Lorenzo Savioli, professor with Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Dr. Matthias Vennemann, a global health consultant and member of the new German NTD Network and our own managing director, Dr. Neeraj Mistry. Also, participating in the workshop were representatives from civil society and German-based pharmaceutical companies. The event allowed for thoughtful discussion and questions about NTDs, their impact on marginalized populations, and how elimination can be achieved. It also gave participants an opportunity to identify which countries they thought carried the largest NTD burden—many were surprised by the answers.
Hosting a meeting in Berlin was significant because of the history of German engagement in the field of NTDs dating back to the mid-1800s with the discovery of “bilharzia” or schistosomiasis in Egypt in 1851 by German parasitologist, Dr. Theodor Maximilian Bilharz. In addition, the German government under GTZ (now GIZ) played an important role in the NTD movement co-sponsoring with the World Health Organization two key meetings of leading NTD stakeholders in 2004 and 2005. The outcome of these meetings achieved two important results—it unified support for an integrated approach in addressing NTD control and elimination efforts, especially for the most common NTDs, and, the term “neglected tropical diseases” became a regular part of the global health vernacular.
Since then, the German government has supported research and development for NTDs. The Parliament conducted a hearing on research for neglected and poverty-caused diseases in 2011, and, some aspects of NTD control have been included in German development policy, such as school-based deworming— on a limited scale.
“However, opportunities truly exist now to scale up global engagement on neglected tropical diseases,” says Dr. Mistry. “With the inclusion of neglected and poverty-related diseases as a focus area on the G7 Summit agenda, and as part of the post-2015 Open Working Group’s outcome document, we’re expecting great things for NTDs in 2015—and, we believe Germany could have a major role to play.”
The Global Network plans to return to Germany a few more times this year to continue our engagement working closely with our in-country partners. The German Parliament is already set to another conduct a hearing on NTDs in early February.