On 30 January 2017 – in the world’s largest mobilisation of donated drugs – the delivery of over 200 million doses arrived in distribution sites in six countries in one 24-hour period. These drugs represented the hope of millions in ending their suffering from six of the 10 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) identified in the London Declaration on NTDs.
A benevolent partnership
On 30 January 2012, Uniting to Combat NTDs – a coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), pharmaceutical companies, governments and philanthropists – signed up to the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases. The London Declaration was a bold promise to control, eliminate or eradicate 10 debilitating NTDs by 2020. It was a challenge laid down by the World Health Organization in their Roadmap on NTDs.
NTDs affect more than 1.5 billion of the poorest, most vulnerable people on the planet. They cause pain, disability, prejudice and death. They perpetuate poverty by preventing people from working, starving children of education and destroying communities. But all are treatable.
An historic anniversary
As the Uniting to Combat NTDs coalition celebrated its 5th anniversary, we began our world record attempt. We organised drug manufacturers, warehouse workers, delivery drivers, government officials and health workers to amass this historic number of donated drugs. All to be delivered to people living in the most hard to reach areas of the world.
Distributions sites in Mexico, Portugal, France, Belgium, South Africa and India buzzed with activity as trucks arrived, deliveries were unloaded and pallets sorted. Corridors of boxes were filled with clipboard-wielding workers counting the life-changing medication inside. As the hours ticked by the numbers increased, culminating in the record-breaking final tally of 207,169,292 doses. We did it!
A recognition of generosity
On a cool April evening in Geneva, Uniting to Combat NTDs director Thoko Elphick-Pooley took to the stage at the NTD Summit 2017. She was joined by Dr. Wilfried Mutombo Kalonji (DRC Congo); Bill Gates (Founder, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation); Haruo Naito (Director, Eisai); Evelyne Leandro (leprosy campaigner and author); Godfrey Chileni (a community health worker in Malawi) and Dr. Edridah Muheki Tukahebwa (National Coordinator of the NTD Programme, Uganda), where Guinness World Records judge Marco Frigatti presented us with our title.
But records are meant to be broken and the challenge remains to alleviate the suffering of many hundreds of millions around the world.
Of course, all world records get challenged. And I for one will be thrilled for the day when this record for drug donations gets broken. So will the millions of families around the world who need them.
Bill Gates, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
It’s a fitting metaphor for the work we do worldwide: the world’s largest health intervention scheme, which has seen the donation and delivery of over 7 billion treatments in five years.
In 2016 alone 1.5 billion treatments were donated to help over a billion people. It demonstrates the overwhelming long-term commitment of our partners.
None of what we have achieved would be possible without the generous support of some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies – Bayer, Eisai, Gilead, GSK, J&J, MSD, Merck KGaA, Novartis, Pfizer and Sanofi. We share this title gratefully.