By Thomas Gass, Vice-Director General of the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC). This piece is adapted from a speech Gass gave at Global Citizen's She Is Equal reception during the European Development Days in Brussels on June 5.
Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) affect 1.5 billion people worldwide. Populations living in poverty, without adequate sanitation and in close contact with infectious vectors, and women and girls are disproportionately at risk and affected.
The right to health is not a luxury — it is a human right. Yet, a third of the people affected with NTDs lack access to treatment, because the medicines that exist do not reach them, or because there is simply no effective medicine for the particular disease.
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Switzerland is not ready to accept this unbearable situation. Improving access to medical products for all is therefore a priority for us. To overcome the market failure that exists in research and development of medical products against NTDs, the combination of public and private resources to stimulate R&D of new medicines, diagnostic tests, and insecticides against NTDs has been a great success.
Our continued support to public-private partnerships like Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative or the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics makes a significant difference. These initiatives address market failures and develop solutions for populations under threat of or suffering from NTDs.
Fostering access to medical products against NTDs also means that research has to go beyond the development of medical products and has to be translated into the implementation of multi-sectoral plans against NTDs. The WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), which we support, plays an essential role in this endeavor, so that truly no one is left behind.
Our fight against NTDs is an investment in sustainable development. Because good health is not only a result of sustainable development, it is also a precondition for it. Without access, there is no progress.
Global Citizen campaigns against NTDs and you can take action on this issue here.