Power the Partnership
2020 is a monumental year for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). In January we celebrated the inaugural World NTD Day, appropriately first celebrated within the year dedicated to NTDs. This year we eagerly anticipated the launch of the WHO NTDs road map which resets our ambitious goals of eradication, elimination and control of these diseases from 2021 to 2030. After many months of collaboration we hoped this would launch this month, however due to shifts in the agenda of the World Health Assembly we await news of the new timings for the launch and hope that will be in 2020. Another most anticipated event was planned for June 2020, the Kigali Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases. The Summit intended to offer a fantastic opportunity to unify and attract global attention as well as calls-to-action focused on ending these preventable diseases.
With the restrictions that are in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the summit was postponed and an interactive and virtual event called ‘Power the Partnership: End the Neglect’ was created instead by Uniting to Combat NTDs.
POWER THE YOUTH
The afternoon of talks and interactive discussions started with an event called Power the Youth, hosted by Youth Combating NTDs. This dynamic group was formed in February 2020, and quickly established a Youth Advisory Board. Youth Combating NTDs strives to create an inter-generational collaboration platform that engages, empowers and supports communities to become disease free. It supports youthful voices to engage with decision-makers on the global health agenda.
It’s been 20 years since WHO adopted the term Neglected Tropical Diseases and formed the NTD Department. Much good work has been achieved in this time. With the emergence of COVID-19, many NTD programmes were interrupted, including those reliant on mass drug administration. Depriving communities’ of essential drugs will have a massive impact on the lives of young people. The meeting agreed that the community cannot afford to jeopardise the health of under-fives with denied access to treatment. Recommendations were made for interventions to be integrated with a safe, socially distanced programming for the long-term. Because COVID-19 is not going away.
Youth need to advocate for more and sustained intervention in their communities.
Professor David Molyneux CMG
Youth Combating NTDs called for youth to stand together, engage and work with their local communities on issues around NTDs and call on governments and world leaders to work with young people on their NTD strategy They asked the participants to sign, share and stand for an #NTDFreeGen.
It's important to invest in leadership and ensure youth get a place at the table. They are challenging us to do things differently, and I really appreciate that.
Dr Mwele Malecela
POWER THE PARTNERSHIP: END THE NEGLECT
The second session was a celebration of the successes of the London Declaration, linking NTDs with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and exploring what could be possible in the next decade through the WHO NTD Road Map 2030.
Since the 2012 London Declaration on NTDs, a billion people have had preventive treatment each year, for four consecutive years, for at least one NTD. 32 countries have eliminated at least one of them. Succeeding in the fight against NTDs helps us achieve other health goals too. Training health workers to provide high-quality treatment, conducting novel disease surveillance, as well as enabling referrals to functional local health facilities all help to strengthen health systems and advance the causes of universal health coverage and effective primary healthcare.
The Covid-19 pandemic threatens both health gains already made and future progress. So, how can we ensure that no-one is left behind? For this group, the answer is through partnerships, which is also the guiding principle behind the Sustainable Development Goals.
The NTD community is a great example of international solidarity with its continual innovation, the leadership of its partners and the record-breaking drug donation processes from pharmaceutical companies. Now, as the WHO develops a new NTD road map to take us to 2030, the community must come together with renewed determination. Partners must renew their commitment to focus on vulnerable communities and provide more financial support and tools for more effective prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
Power the Progress: NTDs and the Sustainable Development Goals
In the last 8 years since the London Declaration, we have seen some big wins in the fight against NTDs. In Nigeria, intersectoral collaboration between communities, religious and community leaders saw the elimination of all but four NTDs as a public health concern, with the aim to integrate NTD, WASH and other health programmes. Vanuatu saw true political will and community engagement with the programmes, resulting in the elimination of Lymphatic filariasis in 2016.
Before the London Declaration, less than 200 million people were reached with treatment. Increased health coverage in Africa due to the NTD programmes means that now 450 million people are offered vital treatment each year.
NTD programmes are powering progress in other infectious diseases. WASH and other programmes combat climate vulnerabilities, creating stronger communities and partnerships in order to overcome challenges such as climate change. This is the One Health approach.
The lesson we’re learning is that the NTD program managers and community health workers are playing a huge role in the COVID-19 fight, doing things like health education, WASH and contact tracing. We’ve been able to demonstrate that we don’t have to prioritize one disease and neglect the others.
Dr Maria Rebollo Polo
ESPEN Team Leader
It is possible to win the fight against COVID-19 as well as other health threats as long as we integrate measures appropriately and strengthen partnerships already in place.
Power the Road Map: Bold targets for NTDs to 2030
What gets measured, gets done.
Dr Mwele Malecela
There are three major shifts that the new road map envisages. Firstly, a shift from vertical programming to a more holistic cross-cutting approach. Secondly, the integration of programmes into health system and links with mental health, disability and other groups. Finally moving from a partner or a donor supported programmes to programmes that are country-owned and country-financed.
The Road Map will look at what the major gaps are in diagnostics, monitoring and evaluation, supply chain and logistics. All of these are linked to COVID-19 related access and logistics, which are key issues around the pandemic. Other key issues include Advocacy, Funding and strengthening Partnerships. NTDs are diseases of poverty and they exacerbate poverty. This is the uniqueness of this road map, it's about looking at all of the Neglected Tropical Diseases and finding a way and looking at better integration in order to move this agenda of elimination, eradication and control forward.
The power behind the road map is togetherness. We are indeed stronger together always.
Dr Mwele Malecela
Power the Future: Finding innovative partnerships to beat NTDs
Global action is required post COVID-19 in order to end the neglect.
The WHO NTD Road Map 2030 comes at a time when countries within Africa are developing a common position to intensely advocate for the control and the elimination of NTDs. This includes increased domestic finances and stakeholder integration, more coordination, and the strengthening of partnership in countries and across borders.
Our member states in Africa should especially work to ensure adequate engagement and ownership of NTDs programmes, through decentralisation of interventions, integration of the communities in decision-making and promoting local leadership.
Amira Elfadil Mohammed Elfadil, African Union Social Affairs Commissioner
COVID-19 has shed light further on global inequalities. It threatens ruining many global gains made, including efforts in NTDs. But it also demonstrates just how focused the community can be globally and how much global solidarity exists.
The only way that we can fight COVID-19 and many NTDs and hopefully prevent them is with a holistic, multi-sectoral, One Health approach.
Dr Maria Flachsbarth, Parliamentary State Secretary of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
To do that, we must act now, working in a joint multi-sectoral approach, strengthening health systems in all the world's countries and improving hygiene knowledge and standards. We must improve protection of animals and the environment; strengthen sustainable food systems and we must make it possible for all people to have access to clean water.
Power the Partnership: Strengthening NTD partnerships and cross-sector collaboration
Since the London Declaration in 2012, the collective work of the community has improved the lives of some of the world's most vulnerable people. Much of this is down to the work of partnerships.
These confident and adaptable programmes and partnerships have made real contributions to the Covid-19 pandemic response, with NTD programmes supporting the goal of universal health coverage.
What sets the NTD community apart? My answer, partnership.
Dr Katey Einterz Owen
Director for Neglected Tropical Diseases, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Since the London Declaration, over 100 organisations became part of this fight. The Partnership is a partnership of industry that has given over 12 billion treatments, it's a partnership of academia and research that continues to innovate and it's a partnership of donors
NTDs are not just neglected diseases, they are diseases of neglected people. We need to strengthen our collaboration, expand our partnerships, create more innovations, and create a stronger commitment to the countries we serve.
Dr Mona Hammani
Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi
Covid-19 has demonstrated the importance of global solidarity and strong country leadership in tackling infectious diseases. It has also shown us that we are all in this together, and that no one should be left behind.
Watch the virtual events online.