By Taylor Mann, Associate Director of Public Affairs, the END Fund
Since its formation in 2020, a group of Champions consistently leveraged their passion, skills, and networks in concert to fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). This network of international and Pan African leaders are shining examples of how individuals can use their voices to meaningfully contribute to ending NTDs by 2030.
World NTD Day, commemorated annually on January 30th, calls on every sector, region, and leader to join the effort to end NTDs, a group of bacterial and parasitic diseases that affect over 1.7 billion people globally. The day serves as a moment to inspire the type of commitment and collaboration that needs to be sustained throughout the year – and for many years to come – if we are to build on our achievements so far and eliminate NTDs for good.
In November 2021, NTD Champions and members of Amujae Leaders, a women’s leadership initiative of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development, published an op-ed, Resilience in the Face of Crisis: A Call for Action Against Neglected Tropical Diseases, in Business Day Nigeria. Citing research that highlights the link between eliminating and controlling NTDs and greater economic prosperity, the piece calls on African business leaders, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists to join the effort to end NTDs. The economic case for NTD elimination and control is solid: For every $1USD invested in treating a school-aged child, communities stand to gain $25USD in investments and opportunities.
Sustained advocacy and awareness raising with private sector leaders within established institutions has led to incredible shifts in strategy. For example, the United Global Compact’s historical inclusion of addressing health as a strategic priority in Africa in 2021 was an important step forward.
According to Aïda A. N’Diaye-Riddick, a development expert and member of the Champions’ network, “Bridging the funding gap to eliminate neglected tropical diseases in Africa and particularly in Côte d’Ivoire requires securing political commitment at the highest level, and integrating NTD activities into programmatic, operational and financial frameworks across government sectors to secure local and foreign resources.” In recognition of the importance of political commitment to fight NTDs, the Champions Program is partnering with the Global First Ladies Initiative (GFLA) and has engaged with First Lady offices to raise awareness about how NTDs intersect with First Lady priority areas, such as gender equality and child and maternal health.
Connections through this network have also led to new opportunities in sports, music, social media, women’s health, fashion, and more. Ensuring that every sector has an understanding of NTDs helps us discover novel ways to spread the word about NTDs and new approaches to NTD programming.
This group of inspiring leaders has accomplished so much already and is poised for even more impact in 2022. Individually and collectively, they demonstrate the different ways that we can leverage our spheres of influence this World NTD Day and beyond.
Thank you, NTD Champions, for your sustained commitment and action!
2021 NTD Champions:
- Ms. Benny Bonsu, Director of Daily Content, Olympic Channel
- Ms. Ilwad Elman, Director of Programs and Development, Elman Peace and Human Rights Center
- Ms. Gayatri Datar, Co-Founder and CEO, EarthEnable
- Mr. Nicholas Hitimana, Founder & Managing Director, Ikirezi Natural Products
- Ms. Isata Kabia, Founding Director, Voice of Women Africa and AFRiLOSOPHY Foundation
- Ms. Doris Kibassa, Head of People and Operations, Volunteer Services Overseas
- Ms. Olajobi Makinwa, Chief, Africa, UN Global Compact
- Ms. Mari Malek, Model, DJ, Actress, and Founder, Stand For Education
- Ms. Almaz Negash, Founder and Executive Director, Africa Diaspora Network
- Mr. Jean Jacques Ndayisenga, General Manager, Rwanda Trading Company
- Ms. Aïda N’diaye, Founder, EMPOWER US
- Hon. Fatoumatta Njai, Member of the National Assembly of the Gambia
- H.E. Toyin Ojora-Saraki, Founder-President, Well-Being Foundation Africa
- Ms. Vivian Onano, Social Entrepreneur and Founder/Director, Leading Light Initiative
- Dr. Adaeze Oreh, Consultant Family Physician and Country Head of Planning, Research and Statistics, Nigeria’s National Blood Transfusion Service
- Mr. Fred Rugamba, Public Relations and Marketing, Rwanda Mountain Tea Ltd.
- Ms. Antoinette Uwimana, Executive Director, Women for Women Rwanda
- Ms. Caren Wakoli, Founder and Executive Director, Emerging Leaders Foundation