The number of new donors that have joined to support NTD programmes in recent years is encouraging. It proves that evidence of impact is a tremendous motivation for investors. But, additional funding partners are still needed, as hundreds of millions of people still require treatment.
Being a donor is an opportunity to be part of a global partnership to remove NTDs as a barrier to prosperity. One estimate suggests that, if WHO’s 2020 goals are met, nearly US$ 52 billion in productivity could be saved in sub-Saharan Africa over the coming 10 years.
With the signing of the London Declaration in 2012 came a commitment by bilateral donor governments, private philanthropists, NGOs and pharmaceutical companies to control, eliminate or eradicate 10 NTDs by 2020. Although some of these groups had been funding NTD programmes for years, the London Declaration gave them renewed energy and a commitment to accelerate progress. Over the past 5 years, demonstrated outcomes of investment in national programmes have been a catalyst for new, diverse donors to join the fight against NTDs. In 2012, 22 endemic countries were identified as recipients of international support The Children’s Investments Fund Foundation, the Conrad Hilton Foundation, the END Fund, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, UK aid Direct and USAID.. As of 2016, that number had doubled, with 45 endemic countries benefitting from the translation of donor support into strategies and progress against NTDs.
Government donors such as UK aid, the U.S. government’s Agency for International Development (USAID) and private philanthropic donors such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have been at the forefront of NTD control and elimination efforts, continuing to allocate significant funds each year. Donors have invested nearly US$ 300 million per year towards implementation costs, delivering over 1.8 billion treatments in 2016. USAID, for example, has provided US$ 100 million per year over the past 4 years to national programmes in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Over a ten year period investing in NTDs, USAID helped reach 935 million people with two billion NTD treatments.
To help link with new donors, the END Fund was established in 2012 as a platform to engage private philanthropists in investing in NTDs. Since its founding through 2017, the END Fund has mobilized over US$ 100 million.
Among the partners that have joined efforts to fight NTDs through the END Fund are the Campbell Family Foundation, the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Shefa Fund, Al Ansari Exchange and the ELMA Foundation.
A growing number of individuals, foundations and corporations are investing in ending NTDs, joining organizations already supporting NTDs, like the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Carlos Slim Foundation, the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust and Mundo Sano.
Investing in NTDs is cost-effective. The NTD programme is the largest public-private partnership at USAID, leveraging US$ 26 worth of donated drugs for every US tax dollar invested. The programme collaborates with national programmes to forecast demand and distribute the donated medicines to communities in need.
In April 2017, at the global partners meeting on NTDs, philanthropists, donors, governments, representatives of the pharmaceutical industry and other stakeholders committed US$ 812 million over the next 5–7 years to tackle NTDs. Leading this new set of commitments was UK aid, which committed £350 million over 5 years (equivalent to US$ 450 million at the time of the announcement)Based on an exchange rate of $1.25 as at April 18 2017 (HMRC rates). to support NTD control and elimination around the world. The Government of Belgium, a new partner in NTDs, committed US$ 27 million dedicated to the elimination of sleeping sickness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. To further the effort, Vestergaard pledged to donate 20% of its insecticide-treated ‘tiny targets’, used to control the tsetse flies that transmit sleeping sickness, scaling up to 100% over the next 3 years as elimination nears.
To support innovation for impact, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation committed US$ 335 million in grants over the next 4 years to support drug and diagnostic development and delivery, vector control, and operations research to optimize NTD programme implementation including US $42 million to support eradication of Guinea worm disease.
As the fight against NTDs continues, the global partnership should celebrate national and regional successes as they are achieved, while building momentum towards global success. The global NTDs effort could benefit significantly from increased domestic resource mobilization in the countries that bear the heaviest burden of these diseases. Not only would this be an internal investment in the fight against NTDs, it would also be an investment in country ownership and UHC. Collectively, by addressing NTDs, national governments, private and bilateral donors could transform the socio-economic prospects of the affected communities and countries worldwide by improving the health and productivity of current and future workforces.
Gulf States intensify the fight against NTDs
During the past 5 years, the leadership of donors in the Middle East and the Gulf States has continued to grow.
In November 2017, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), joined with global health partners to launch an innovative US$ 100 million fund to support the elimination of two NTDs, river blindness and LF, in countries in Africa and the Middle East in which these diseases are a priority. This investment continues the commitment of the Emirates to disease elimination, which dates back to their early investment in fighting Guinea worm disease in the 1990s.
The support of the UAE builds on the long-standing commitment by the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (Kuwait Fund) which has been funding the fight against river blindness since the 1970s. In October 2017, the Kuwait Fund, donated an additional US$ 4 million to the Expanded Special Project for the Elimination of NTDs (ESPEN), a project of the WHO’s Africa Region.
The region’s impact in combating NTDs is also due to private philanthropic donations. Donors in the Middle East region, including the Legatum Foundation, Dubai Cares, the Shefa Fund and Al Ansari Exchange, have contributed over US$ 24 million through the END Fund for NTD projects throughout the world, including MDA for integrated NTD treatment, school-based deworming, WASH programming at schools and training of community health workers.
The NTD community is grateful to all those in the Middle East who have joined the fight against NTDs, both before and since the London Declaration, and looks forward to the collaboration of others to end these diseases of poverty.