January 30, 2023 marked the fourth annual World NTD Day. We have come a long way since the United Nations officially dedicated this day to commemorate the progress made against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). So far, 47 countries have eliminated at least one NTD and 600 million fewer people require treatment for NTDs than they did a decade ago.
To celebrate all that has been accomplished and to bring awareness to all that is left to achieve, the END Fund, WHO, and Reaching the Last Mile launched Reframing Neglect, a new photography exhibit by contemporary artist and activist Aïda Muluneh. Aïda worked with artists from six countries to build a collaborative body of work that highlights the impact of NTDs on individuals and communities. Reframing Neglect is helping to re-center the most important voices in our effort to end NTDs.
“A lot of people do not think about the human element of disease, especially when we talk about Africa. In my collection, I tried to imagine how people really feel: the fear around a specific disease, the reaction of the community, or the cultural elements,” said Muluneh in reference to The Crimson Echo, her collection in the Reframing Neglect series.“This has become an opportunity for me to share a different way of imagining challenges. [NTDs] are really something that we have to eliminate. When we speak about the future of Africa, it must be an Africa that is healthy because disease will really impact the future of the continent.”
The event was moderated by Benny Bonsu, award-winning sports broadcaster and UNESCO Fit for Life and Gender Equality Advocate, and included remarks from the UN Deputy Secretary-General (DSG) Amina Mohammed, Afghan-Danish professional footballer, physician, and UNESCO Champion for Girls’ and Women’s Education Dr. Nadia Nadim, and leaders from the WHO and the governments of Indonesia and the UAE.
“Thank you for putting a spotlight on the World NTD Day with such powerful artwork,” said Bonsu as she introduced the crowd to Reframing Neglect. “There are 1.7 billion people affected by NTDs, and each one of them is preventable.”
Among the highlights, UN DSG, Amina Mohammed shared an appreciation for the power of art. “As of 2022, 47 countries have already eliminated at least one NTD, most coming within the last 10 years,” Mohammed said as she highlighted the importance of addressing NTDs as part of an intersectional sustainable development agenda and the need for increased, coordinated action for impact.
“There are so many things in our world that we do not yet have the tools to fix, but this is an example where we have the tools, we have a pathway, and we just need to continue to mobilize,” said Ellen Agler, the END Fund CEO, as she capped the night off.
Agler reiterated the need for a thoughtful and unique approach to accelerate financing for NTD elimination that encourages investment in all forms, highlighting the Game of Our Lives platform as a bedrock for participant and future engagement.
Stay tuned for our next showcasing of Reframing Neglect!