In the global flight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) it is predominantly the effort of the international community that grabs the headlines. Philanthropic organisations, government development agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) make a tremendous contribution by working in partnership to combine their resources. However, investment from endemic countries is crucial to the success of combatting the NTDs that affect their own populations.

A promise to the people

To firm up existing commitments and provide a framework for endemic countries to work from, in December 2014, ministers from 26 African countries gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to sign the Addis Ababa Commitment. Ethiopia’s Minister of Health Dr Kesetebirhan Admasu spearheaded this commitment. The commitment was a promise to increase domestic investment, strengthen NTD program goals, work towards global control and elimination targets and use their NTD work to strengthen their overall health systems. It also included a pledge to make the world a healthier place where families and communities can thrive.

Paving the way to UHC

NTD infrastructures such as domestic programme management, distribution channels and community health clinics can lay the foundations for health system strengthening and ultimately pave the way for a functional universal health system. In turn, this puts the country on the right path to achieving several Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nations.

A financial benefit

But it’s not just the health of a country’s citizens that’s affected. It is the health of its economy too. NTDs are a huge drain on a country’s resources. Lost working days result in fewer taxes collected; lower food production leads to a reduction in exports, as there are fewer workers in the fields; education suffers as children miss school and existing health systems are strained.

Engaging the global community

Ethiopia’s Minister of Health Dr Kesetebirhan Admasu introduced the commitment at the 68th World Health Assembly in Geneva in May 2015. Fellow health ministers from Brazil, Malawi and Sudan joined him.

“NTDs are not only a health agenda, but a development agenda too, for which the poor pay the highest price… The development arena talks about ‘value for money’ with NTDs. I like to think about ‘value for many’.”

Dr Kesetebirhan Admasu

Uniting to Combat NTDs encourages countries to officially join the effort, increase funding and implement integrated elimination programmes.

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