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It is crucial not to neglect other existing health programmes during fight against COVID-19

25 June 2020



World leaders urged to ‘end the neglect’ of neglected tropical diseases

  • Over 1.7 billion people affected by an NTD must not be forgotten
  • Covid-19 pushes India, Nigeria and DRC further into poverty whilst battling NTDs
  • Historic eliminations recorded in Yemen, Malawi*, Vanuatu and Ghana
  • WHO – We need the NTD 2030 roadmap more than ever
  • Global pledge to #EndTheNeglect

London, United Kingdom, 25 June 2020 – The World Health Organization (WHO), government officials, private sector partners, philanthropists, NGOs and youth groups are among those joining a global event today calling on world leaders not to forget the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) – which affect one in five people on the planet.

The virtual event, hosted by Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases, will call on country leaders and policy makers to remember more than 1.7 billion people affected by NTDs and continue the commitment set out in the 2012 London Declaration on NTDs which comes to an end this year.

“Work to capitalise on the incredible gains made over the last eight years since the London Declaration was signed is imperative,” says Chair of the Uniting Board, Mona Hammami. “Especially given the current global health landscape. The Uniting partnership is responding to the WHO road map by expanding to include all 20 diseases. We believe that over the next ten years we can put an end to many diseases of poverty. Since the London Declaration was signed, we have made historic eliminations in 32 countries but COVID-19 represents a significant challenge for all sectors working in global health. It has drawn global attention to the need to protect people from major health crises. With support from world leaders, dedicated partners and continued donations from the pharmaceutical industry we can ensure the progress of the last eight years does not halt.”

Over 1.7 billion people are affected by NTDs, which cause immeasurable suffering around the world. The World Bank projects that COVID-19 will cause the first increase in global poverty since 1998. 23 million people are expected to be pushed into poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and 16 million in South Asia. Hardest hit is likely to be India, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, countries already highly endemic for NTDs.

Dr Mwelecele Ntuli Malecela, Director, WHO Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases, believes it is more vital than ever not to lose focus. “COVID‐19 has affected almost every country and amplified inequity worldwide. Our upcoming road map envisages important shifts and one of them is integration which we can leverage to work across sectors and in conjunction with the many other programmes – malaria, TB, immunization, the whole gamut of public health interventions – to respond to a radically changed public health landscape. Failure to collaborate and pool-in resources and efforts will jeopardize the progress we have made over the past decade.”

Since the London Declaration on NTDs was signed in 2012:

  • 32 countries have successfully eliminated at least one NTD including Malawi*, Yemen, Ghana and Togo
  • Over 12 billion treatments have reached some of the world’s most vulnerable people to help defeat neglected tropical diseases
  • A new Guinness World Record was set for the most medicines ever donated in a 24-hour period (Jan 2017). In just one day over 200 million medicines were delivered across 6 countries
  • Today, more than 500 million people no longer need to be treated for NTDs.

Yaobi Zhang – Chair, Neglected Tropical Disease NGO Network, agrees: “The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates existing health crises worldwide, and we must continue to integrate the NTD response with the existing global health landscape. NTD programmes reach the most vulnerable communities; they have a fundamental role in building back healthy communities, populations and health systems post-pandemic.”

Director, Uniting to Combat NTDs Secretariat, Thoko Elphick-Pooley concludes, “As we are seeing throughout the world, a strong, supported health workforce is essential to cope with pandemics like Covid-19. By protecting the world’s most vulnerable people, we contribute to a more just and equal world. While research into a Covid-19 vaccine is paramount, it is crucial to start thinking about its equitable access and to ensure that the poorest people will not be forgotten from this new vaccine but also from treatments that already exist. NTDs and the people they affect, are already neglected; we need to make sure they are not completely forgotten.”

Together, we are harder to ignore – Join global pledge to #EndTheNeglect

*Malawi elimination of LF was spoken about on the WHO webinar 17 June (awaiting WHO official announcement)

For more information please go to endtheneglect.com or contact: Pinky@unitingtocombatntds.org


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Notes to editors:

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of debilitating infectious diseases that affect over 1.7 billion people around the world. They disable, disfigure and sometimes kill.

Uniting to Combat NTDs is a collective of invested, interested and dedicated partners, including governments, donors, pharmaceutical companies, non-governmental organisations, academia and more.

The partnership is committed to the fight to end the epidemic of 20 NTDs.

The biopharmaceutical industry is working alongside governments and the global health community to sustain gains to eliminate NTDs Explore: https://bit.ly/3eQ90CN
Neglected Tropical Diseases (20 as identified by WHO)

  • Bilharzia
  • Blinding trachoma
  • Buruli ulcer
  • Chagas disease
  • Dengue and Chikungunya
  • Echinococcosis
  • Elephantiasis
  • Foodborne trematodiases
  • Guinea worm disease
  • Intestinal worms
  • Leprosy
  • Mycetoma, chromoblastomycosis and other deep mycoses (Fonseca’s disease, Pedroso’s disease)
  • Rabies
  • River blindness
  • Scabies and other ectoparasites
  • Sleeping sickness
  • Snakebite envenoming
  • Taeniasis/Cysticercosis
  • Visceral leishmaniasis
  • Yaws (Endemic treponematoses)

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