Combating Neglected Tropical Diseases
Blog Oct 30, 2013
END7 is the first global public awareness campaign dedicated to Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD’s) control and elimination. In recent years, NTDs has garnered greater momentum and awareness in the global health agenda, such as during the recent G8 Summit.
The END7 campaign, an initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute is backed by the ‘Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’. It was launched in 2012 by the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases headed by its Managing Director Neeraj Mistry.
We spoke with Neeraj Mistry to understand more about the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases and their END7 campaign.
AB: Can you please tell me more about the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases
Neeraj Mistry (NM): The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (Global Network) is an advocacy initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute that works to raise the awareness, political will, and funding necessary to control and eliminate the seven most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2020. These seven parasitic and bacterial infections are lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis), onchocerciasis (river blindness), schistosomiasis (snail fever), trachoma, hookworm, ascariasis (roundworm) and trichuriasis (whipworm).
One in six people worldwide, including half a billion children, suffer from NTDs. Spread by insects like mosquitoes and flies, or through contact with contaminated water or soil while walking, playing, or bathing, NTDs cause widespread suffering in people living on less than $1.25 a day.
Pain, swelling, blindness, malnutrition and stigma are just some of the devastating effects preventing people from working, attending school or caring for their families. As a result, the most vulnerable populations are trapped in a cycle of poverty spanning generations and remain isolated from development growth taking place within their countries.
The Global Network supports an integrated, simple treatment approach that is readily available and one of the best buys in public health: a packet of pills that treats and protects one person per year against the seven most common NTDs. This treatment costs only 50 cents thanks to donations of pills from the pharmaceutical industry. In the 2012 London Declaration, the largest coordinated effort on NTDs to-date, 13 pharmaceutical companies built on previous drug donation commitments by pledging approximately 14 billion treatments by the end of this decade.
The Global Network is working to make NTDs a global health priority and one that is addressed in tandem with other development efforts, such as maternal and child health and water, sanitation and hygiene. We are encouraged by international, regional and national commitments made during the past couple of years. However, to reach the World Health Organization’s global NTD control and elimination targets by 2020, we must close the roughly $300 million per year funding gap and encourage endemic countries to lead on this issue by fully carrying out national integrated NTDs plans.
The Global Network is educating policymakers about the linkages between NTDs and other pressing developing priorities and collaborating with partners to leverage new resources for NTDs. We actively make the case for this cost-effective humanitarian, economic, and political investment to donor and endemic governments, international financial and health institutions, non-governmental organizations and philanthropic leaders.
AB: The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases launched the END7 Campaign in 2012; can you please tell me more about this campaign?
NM: The END7 campaign, run by the Global Network, is an international advocacy campaign dedicated to raising the awareness and fundraising necessary to control and eliminate the seven most common NTDs by 2020. We have built a comprehensive movement around these diseases through the power of social media and compelling digital communications that share the untold, heartrending stories of people living with NTDs.
The momentum and funds generated from the END7 campaign’s engagement with grassroots supporters, celebrity ambassadors, corporate partners, university students, faith-based groups and fellow non-governmental organizations have helped us deliver treatments to remote communities and strengthen the Global Network’s ability to elevate NTDS in front of policymakers and philanthropic leaders.
AB: How does END7 aim to control neglected tropical diseases?
NM: The END7 campaign’s approach is community-centered, collaborative and sustainable. To effectively reach people and integrate NTD efforts in broader health and education programs, we work closely and coordinate with local and global partners, such as national and state governments; ministries of health, finance and education; technical experts; non-governmental organizations; schools and healthcare centers; and entities such as the World Health Organization and World Bank.
With the cost of NTD medicine fully covered, the END7 campaign works to raise funds that directly help support NTD control and elimination efforts in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean, the three regions with the largest NTD burdens. We support treatment delivery through mass drug administration (MDA), a process that leverages community health workers and teachers to distribute safe and effective NTD medicines to entire communities.
For instance, earlier this year, we supported Helen Keller International (HKI) in its ongoing work to prevent and treat NTDs in Sierra Leone. Nearly half a million people received treatment during a mass drug administration coordinated by HKI, USAID and Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health in the Kono District, a diamond-rich part of the country that also has some of the highest rates of schistosomiasis. The END7 campaign also helped fund an MDA run by the Honduran government to treat more than one million children before they started a new school year. Last month, we supported an MDA in Myanmar coordinated by the Ministry of Health that targeted 22 million people across the country.
AB: What challenges does the END7 Campaign face?
NM: The key challenge we face is the lack of public awareness for NTDs, diseases that are hard to pronounce and disproportionately afflict remote, marginalized communities in developing countries. However, we have made significant progress in helping people learn and care about NTDs by relying on innovative digital tools, using clear messaging, and partnering with organizations and individuals across diverse sectors. With our dedicated base of supporters and expanded commitments, we expect to continue the momentum required to control and eliminate NTDs as a public health threat by 2020.
AB: Finally, what can the people reading this interview do to support the campaign?
NM: We hope that you’ll join us in unlocking people’s full potential by alleviating the suffering caused by NTDs. We encourage you to learn more about NTDs on our Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube pages and challenge you to see what six celebrities saw in our “How to Shock a Celebrity” video. We’d love for you to help us build awareness for NTDs and their impact on people’s economic, health, and social well-being in your communities through word of mouth and fundraising campaigns. These are simple actions that require little time but truly make a difference for people with NTDs.