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Announcement: Thoko Elphick-Pooley is moving on from Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases

Thoko Elphick-Pooley headshot

Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases (Uniting) today announces that Executive Director, Thoko Elphick-Pooley, will be moving on from Uniting on 31 July 2024 having led the organisation for 10 years. She will be joining the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as Deputy Director, Program Advocacy and Communications for Africa.

Since Uniting was established following the signing of the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), Thoko has been a trailblazer for the cause, achieving monumental impact in advocacy and resource mobilisation for NTDs.

Dr Winnie Mpanju-Shumbusho, Chair of Uniting’s Board said:

“On behalf of the Board, I want to thank Thoko for her passion and commitment to improving the lives of people affected by NTDs. She has provided fantastic leadership, strong direction, and total dedication, driving forwards commitments, catalysing political will, and mobilising integral resources for NTDs to ensure that we can beat these preventable and treatable diseases. From facilitating commitments of over $1.5 billion at the Kigali Summit on NTDs, to working with the President of Rwanda on the multi-stakeholder co-creation of the Kigali Declaration on NTDs which put country ownership at the centre, to major advocacy wins in global policy agendas such as G7, G20, TICAD8, and CHOGM – as well as regional agendas, and igniting a movement of passionate advocates - Uniting can count many achievements under Thoko’s stewardship. She is well respected in the world of global health and will be greatly missed. I wish her all the very best in her new role and I look forward to continued collaboration with Thoko.”

Dr Caroline Harper CBE, CEO of Sightsavers, the host organisation for Uniting said:

“I have known Thoko for some 15 years, and she has become one of the most accomplished advocates I have ever known. Under her leadership, Uniting has been the driving force behind so many advocacy achievements – some of which are mentioned above by Dr Winnie Mpanju-Shumbusho, Uniting’s Board Chair. All of us working in NTDs owe her a debt of gratitude. I have seen first-hand the incredible work ethic she has shown, and the dedication to the cause which has raised the profile of NTDs and attracted new interest and funding to programmes. Her networking skills are astounding – from Presidents to celebrities, from people from remote villages who have lived experience of NTDs to young activists, and frankly anyone who can further the cause, Thoko will be able to form a bond with them. I hope that in her new role she will still be a champion for NTDs, even as she takes on a much wider health and development portfolio. From a personal perspective, I also hope she will always remain a dear friend. I wish her all the very best – we will miss her very much.”

Thoko Elphick-Pooley said:

“It will be a wrench to leave an organisation that I love. It has been an honour and a privilege to work with so many talented, dedicated and committed individuals who believe in changing the lives of over a billion people whose lives are turned upside down by diseases we know how to treat and prevent. From countries to donors, multi-laterals and funds, civil society, industry, youth, NTD coalitions, academia and research, parliamentarians, and people with lived experience - the movement to end NTDs has truly been defined by partnerships and collaboration - and I am so proud of what we have delivered together. My proudest moment is seeing affected countries stand side-by-side with international donors committing to the elimination of NTDs, including making financial commitments at COP28. Uniting is at a really exciting chapter with a newly refreshed strategy focused on resource mobilisation and a busy year ahead to capitalise on opportunities for new partnerships and unlocking sustainable financing for NTDs, and I’m excited to see what’s next. The work is not yet done, we need you more than ever. I call on all of you to redouble your efforts to ending NTDs. Be sure of it, I will be there with you to celebrate 100 countries eliminating at least one NTD by 2030.”

Uniting would like to take this opportunity to thank Thoko for all her incredible hard work and achievements over the past decade. Plans for an Interim Executive Director are currently being put into place, with more details to follow soon.