For the first time ever, people around the world are joining together to call on leaders to take action and combat illnesses you’ve likely never heard of — neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
The word neglected is in their name for a reason. NTDs are considered "diseases of poverty" and are often left out of the global health conversation. Which is exactly what sparked the idea to launch the first annual World NTD Day on January 30, 2020.
NTDs are a group of parasitic and bacterial diseases that have severe side effects. They blind, disfigure, and debilitate people in the poorest regions of the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
World NTD Day is meant to open international dialogue by engaging everyday citizens in conversations about NTDs and calling on world leaders to commit to finding ways to eliminate them.
This inaugural event was announced by the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi at the Reaching the Last Mile Forum last November. The United Arab Emirates has been working to eliminate NTDs for more than 30 years.
“World NTD Day will raise awareness and rally the general public behind the urgent need to end NTDs, helping to keep the issue high on the global agenda,” Mohamed Mubarak Al Mazrouei, undersecretary of the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi, said in a press release. “Our commitment to ending NTDs is not just about disease elimination. By removing the barrier of disease, we can help alleviate poverty and uplift entire generations.”
More than 280 organizations, corporations, and government entities are participating in World NTD Day in some way. Organizations include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Jan. 30 also marks the anniversary of the 2012 London Declaration on NTDs, when pharmaceutical companies, donors, endemic countries, and other organizations came together to commit to pushing for support and investment in tackling NTDs.
Significant progress has been made thanks to the declaration, as well as the initial launch of the WHO's Roadmap on NTDs, according to Professor Sir Roy Anderson, director of the London Centre for NTD Research.
“These two moments catalyzed increased collaboration and coordination across multiple sectors, including research, NGOs, the private sector, philanthropic organizations, and the WHO,” Anderson told Global Citizen. “These partnerships have contributed to 31 countries being validated for eliminating at least one NTD and over 1 billion people receiving treatment in 2017 alone.”
Anderson hopes that this year’s World NTD Day will shine a light on the possible progress that could be made with increased global investment.
The Kigali Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases, created by RBM Partnership to End Malaria and Uniting to Combat NTDs, will also take place this year, on June 25, ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) with the intent to call on world leaders to take action on ending NTDs.
|￣￣￣￣￣￣￣￣￣￣￣|— Global Citizen UK (@GlblCtznUK) January 30, 2020
There’s a new global day
for diseases you’ve likely
never heard of!
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But what is #WorldNTDDay all about? (Thread) 👇
“The Kigali Summit will call on global leaders to deliver political commitments and to mobilize new financial commitments of US$1.5 billion to accelerate progress towards the total costs of delivering the WHO NTD 2030 Road Map and will build on the success of the 2012 London Declaration,” a press release said.
In the lead-up to the summit, organizations like the Canadian Network for NTDs will also work to engage everyday citizens.
“We really hope to raise awareness about the issue in Canada and to have greater involvement in the global fight to end NTDs,” Mary Ellen Sellers, senior advocacy and policy officer with the Canadian Network for NTDs, told Global Citizen.
This year will be a significant one, not only in the fight to end NTDs, but for global health and the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) overall. 2020 marks the 10-year mark to 2030 — the deadline for reaching the SDGs and ending extreme poverty worldwide.
“2020 provides an environment ripe for consensus and action, a time to re-focus our goals and re-commit to working together,” Anderson said. “We hope that world leaders commit to keeping up the attention, action, and investment to finally beat NTDs for good.”
Treatments exist for many NTDs and some of them are already on the brink of being eliminated.
There are also pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Johnson & Johnson that donate treatment, which is why global financial commitments to the elimination of NTDs could be big news in the overall fight to end these diseases, as new funding would increase the availability of treatment.