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Powerful Testimonies Urge Action on Neglected Tropical Diseases

 

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Earlier this month, The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, chaired by Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), conducted a hearing on Global Health Programs highlighting U.S. investments in significant  global health efforts  such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund).

Powerful testimonies were delivered from dedicated global health advocates, including Ambassador-at-Large Deborah L. Birx, M.D., Coordinator of the United States Activities to Combat HIV/AIDS and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy, U.S. Department of State; Dr. Mark Dybul, Executive Director, The Global Fund; Sir Elton John, Founder, Elton John AIDS Foundation; and Dr. Rick Warren, Pastor, Saddleback Church.

While discussing the financial and programmatic difficulties of working to combat diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, Ranking Member Leahy (D-VT) underscored the importance of investing in prevention stating that “Many of these diseases can be prevented for just a few dollars.” As we have learned from the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, investing in preventative measures is much more cost-effective than attempting to contain a major outbreak. The Senator added:

“Very few Americans suffer from malaria, polio, Dengue fever, or river blindness. Can you imagine if they did? You’d have people lined up out here saying ‘What are you spending, let’s do something about it!’…This goes beyond politics or economics…we can do better.”

Dengue fever and river blindness are neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) transmitted to humans through bites of infected blackflies and mosquitoes, respectively. Dengue fever can cause severe joint, muscle and bone pain, and river blindness, also known as onchocerciasis, can lead to visual impairment and permanent blindness. Globally, 1.9 billion people are at risk for NTDs. These diseases result in severe physical disabilities and they prevent children from attending school or adults from working – resulting in an endless cycle of economic hardship.

By adding NTDs to the conversation, Sen. Leahy drew attention to a critical link between NTDs and other infectious diseases such as malaria, for example. In many parts of the world, NTDs are a result of inadequate water supply, limited access to sanitation facilities and poor hygiene. Mosquitoes breed in areas with stagnant water and can transmit not only malaria, but also NTDs including dengue fever, lymphatic filariasis and chikungunya.

Synergies such as these stress the importance of partnerships and building more resilient health systems. One way that initiatives such as the Global Fund and PEPFAR work to strengthen health systems in countries and communities is by investing in community health workers.

The Global Network thanks Chairman Graham and Sen. Leahy for holding this productive hearing. The testimonies from this panel of experts underscore the critical role the U.S. Government plays in combating global health issues. Because we have made such enormous strides in the fight against many infectious diseases, including NTDs, we cannot risk reversing the results we have achieved so far.  Those living in extreme poverty around the world are counting on our help.


Funding for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Neglected Tropical Disease (USAID’s NTD) Program is at risk due to the President’s proposed budget of $86.5 million for FY2016 – a $13.5 million drop  from the $100 million allocated by Congress for FY2014 and FY2015. The USAID NTD Program is an extremely successful and cost-effective public-private partnership that has reached more than 465 million individuals in 25 countries with life-saving treatments.

The Global Network’s END7 campaign is taking action against the proposed budget cuts with its “Call to Action” petition. To get involved and speak out, add your name here.

Speak out against Proposed Cuts to the USAID’s NTD Program

 

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The Global Network was disappointed to see the proposed decrease in neglected tropical disease (NTD) funding outlined in the President’s budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2016.  While the proposal includes $86.5 million for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Neglected Tropical Disease (USAID’s NTD) Program, it is a drop of $13.5 million from the $100 million allocation approved by Congress for FY 2014 and FY 2015.

Bipartisan action in Congress has thankfully, over the past few years, led to increased funding for NTD programs beyond the Administration’s requests. This year, the Global Network is urging Congress to honor and continue these previous commitments by requesting that the USAID NTD Program receive $125 million in funding for FY2016.

USAID’s NTD Program, an extremely successful and cost-effective public-private partnership, has reached more than 465 million individuals in 25 countries, focusing on the scale-up of mass drug administration (MDA) with the aim of controlling and eliminating the seven most common NTDs. The program leverages more than $6.7 billion worth of drugs donated by pharmaceutical companies in order to scale-up MDAs in endemic countries, such as Ethiopia, Indonesia, and Nigeria.

The USAID NTD Program is crucial for cutting poverty and increasing broader health outcomes worldwide, considering that NTD treatment contributes to the success of other development efforts. Maternal and child health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, education, and health systems strengthening ALL benefit from NTD treatment.

The Global Network’s END7 campaign is taking action against the proposed budget cuts with its recently-launched “Call to Action” petition. To get involved and speak out, add your name here.

For other ways to get involved and join the fight, use END7’s new Twitter tool to tweet directly at your member of Congress, urging them to defend the USAID NTD budget.  And lastly, feel free to share our infographic with your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues, which outlines just how crucial the USAID NTD Program is to the global effort to end NTDs.

Congress Approves $100 Million for NTD Funding!

 

This spring, the END7 campaign launched an advocacy action to help to fight cuts to the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Program. Thousands of supporters spoke out by sending a message to Chairwoman Kay Granger and Ranking Member Nita Lowey, of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, urging them to maintain NTD funding at $100 million.

We were very happy to hear that Congress approved $100 million for NTD funding in fiscal year (FY) 2015 and the President signed the budget this week! END7 is grateful for the thousands of supporters who took action. This is a huge success for the NTD community and the half a billion children who suffer from NTDs.

This victory underscores a growing bipartisan effort to prioritize global health and NTD spending within the U.S budget, and a growing awareness that treating NTDs is critical to ending extreme poverty. Every dollar spent on NTD treatment contributes to the success of other development efforts including maternal and child health, nutrition, education, water, sanitation and hygiene. And it costs less than 50 cents to treat a child for all seven of the most common NTDs, making it one of the best buys in public health.

The $100 million allocated to USAID’s NTD Program will bolster global efforts to control and eliminate the seven most common NTDs by 2020. In the past eight years, the NTD Program has delivered more than one billion NTD treatments to people around the world. And thanks to renewed support from Congress, USAID will be able to reach even more people in 2015.

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Breaking Now on Capitol Hill: Introducing the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act

 

A remarkable new bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this week that has the potential to help turn the tide in the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the “End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act” already enjoys bi-partisan support from co-sponsors Reps. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Greg Meeks (D-NY).

The End Neglected Diseases Act was sparked by last year’s Subcommittee hearing on “Addressing the Neglected Diseases Treatment Gap” conducted by Congressman Smith, which featured testimony from Dr. Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, and other NTD experts.

The legislation takes a wide approach to supporting the control and eliminate of NTDs, both in the U.S. and abroad. If passed, the bill would expand USAID’s NTD Program to target more diseases and better integrate programs, direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to research the impact of NTDs in the U.S. and require U.S. policymakers to advocate for increased NTDs efforts among international institutions such as the World Bank and United Nations. The bill will also create one or more NTD centers of excellence and establish a panel on intestinal worm infections to encourage increased R&D for tools to diagnose, prevent, treat and control NTDs.

The End Neglected Diseases Act would be a great compliment to the U.S. government’s ongoing efforts to fight these diseases and help to fill the remaining global treatment gaps. Since the launch of USAID’s NTD Program in fiscal year 2006, the program has exceeded expectations by delivering more than one billion treatments to nearly 468 million people, leveraging $6.7 billion worth of donated medicines across 25 developing countries. However, there is still much work to be done to achieve the World Health Organization’s NTD control and elimination goals by 2020; this new piece of legislation could play a significant role in achieving these goals.

Please click here to read more about the bill, including reactions from experts at the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Global Network.

Look out for our upcoming advocacy action next week, which will allow you to easily send a letter to your representative in Congress, urging him or her to co-sponsor the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act (or send a thank you note to those that are already co-sponsors). And, if you need a quick refresher on how a bill becomes a law, I recommend this Schoolhouse Rock classic.