The END Fund, WHO, and Reaching the Last Mile Convene Partners at United Nations Headquarters to Unite on World NTD Day
Global health, government, industry, and civil society leaders marked World NTD Day by celebrating progress against WHO’s 2030 roadmap; called for collective action to end NTDs.
(United Nations Headquarters; New York, NY) – The END Fund, together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Reaching the Last Mile (RLM), an initiative of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), convened global health, government, pharmaceutical industry, and civil society leaders at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York City to observe World Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Day. NTDs are a group of treatable, preventable parasitic and bacterial infectious diseases that needlessly hold back the lives and livelihoods of more than 1.6 billion people, including nearly 1 billion children.
“We must unite and act to eliminate NTDs,” said Stewart Simonson, WHO Representative at the United Nations. “Last year we reached a key milestone of 50 countries having eliminated at least one NTD – the halfway mark to the NTD roadmap target of 100. We must unite and act to prioritize controlling and eliminating these diseases in the next 50 countries, and public-private philanthropic partnership is key to ensuring we do so. Drug donations from pharmaceutical companies through WHO or directly to countries has been among the best examples of a public-private partnership contributing to public health and improving the lives of the poorest of the poor.”
On this year’s World NTD Day, the END Fund and partners gathered for a private screening of The Fly Collectors, a short documentary film that features a group of men in Senegal tasked with the painstakingly difficult job of catching flies by hand that carry the parasite that causes river blindness, a debilitating and painful disease. Globally, 244 million people still require annual treatment for river blindness. Senegal is now on the brink of eliminating transmission of this disease. In addition to the private screening, guests enjoyed an encore presentation of Reframing Neglect, a photography series creative directed by contemporary artist and activist Aïda Muluneh, which was unveiled at last year’s World NTD Day event at the UN. The exhibit is on display at the UN through Friday, February 16, 2024 and will be shown in various venues worldwide throughout the year. Both the film and photography exhibit showcase the power of art and storytelling for advocacy in the face of a shifting landscape and warming climate that threaten progress against NTDs.
The evening included remarks from WHO leaders, as well as the governments of Brazil and the UAE. A panel discussion facilitated by Dr. Uzodinma Iweala, Chief Executive Officer, The Africa Center and featuring Jeff Arak, Director, The Fly Collectors; Professor Daniel Boakye, Senior Technical Advisor, Programs, The END Fund; Dr. Allison Goldberg, President, Merck Foundation, Executive Director, Global Impact Giving, Merck; and Walter Panzirer, Trustee, Helmsley Charitable Trust highlighted the importance of collective, multisectoral approaches to achieving a world free of NTDs.
“We can see the path to defeating NTDs. Now, all we need to do is tread it,” said Ambassador Mohamed Abushahab, Deputy Permanent Representative of the UAE to the UN. “Global donors made concrete commitments to eradicating these preventable and treatable diseases during the Reaching the Last Mile Forum at COP28 in the UAE, but there are still further steps we can take. It will take all of us – government, multilateral organizations, NGOs, and philanthropic entities – to deliver substantive progress in our efforts to make the world safer and healthier for everyone, everywhere.”
“We have 1.6 billion reasons to unite, act, and eliminate NTDs in our lifetime,” said Ellen Agler, Chief Executive Officer, the END Fund. “Through the art of visual storytelling, we are reminded of the human impact of these debilitating diseases – and our collective responses. To achieve a world free of NTDs will require us to leverage resources in new and unique ways so we can scale and accelerate our life-saving efforts. The END Fund is proud to partner with communities around the world to target resources where they are most needed.”
About World NTD Day
Launched in 2019 by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, World NTD Day was championed by the UAE and other committed partners until its formal recognition by the World Health Organization in 2021. The day serves as a catalyst to translate awareness into action, secure increased resources for NTDs, and crucially facilitate political leadership and ownership of NTD programs from affected countries. Since its launch, hundreds of partners have signed up to mark World NTD Day and demand action to #BeatNTDs. It is celebrated annually on January 30, the anniversary of the landmark 2012 London Declaration on NTDs.
About Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)
Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are caused by parasites (helminths, protozoa, ectoparasites), bacteria, viruses, fungi, and toxins. These diseases and conditions can cause effects such as deformed legs and blindness and can contribute to childhood malnourishment, cognitive impairment, stunted growth, and the inability to attend school. Social isolation and physical ailments make it difficult for people with NTDs to work, creating a cycle of poverty. Over 40 percent of the world’s NTD burden is concentrated in Africa, where the END Fund focuses the majority of its work.
About the END Fund
The END Fund is a private philanthropic initiative that exists to end the most prevalent neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The fund efficiently puts private capital to work, advocating for NTD programs that are innovative, integrated, and cost-effective. It facilitates strong partnerships with the private sector, government partners, and local implementing partners to collaboratively support national disease programs. This is done through a proven implementation model that is tailored to meet the needs of individual countries, with the view to fostering healthier communities, protected from the risks of NTDs. Since its founding in 2012, along with partners, the END Fund has distributed over 1 billion treatments across 31 countries, performed over 43,000 blindness and disability-preventing surgeries, and trained nearly 3.5 million health workers to preempt and treat NTDs. More at www.end.org.
About Reaching the Last Mile (RLM)
Reaching the Last Mile (RLM) is a portfolio of global health programs, investments, and initiatives working towards disease elimination that is driven by the philanthropy of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE. Through its partnership and programs, RLM provides treatment and preventative care in communities that lack access to quality health services, with a focus on last-mile disease elimination. RLM’s mission represents His Highness’s dedication to ending preventable diseases that affect the world’s most vulnerable communities, and to helping millions of children and adults live healthy, dignified lives. More at www.reachingthelastmile.com.
About the World Health Organization (WHO)
Dedicated to the well-being of all people and guided by science, the World Health Organization is the UN specialized agency for health. WHO leads and champions global efforts to give everyone, everywhere, an equal chance at a safe and healthy life. Its mission is to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. More at www.who.int.
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