UAE: We can free people suffering from pain and stigma, say donors who pledged $777 million to end NTDs

'Together with communities, governments, donors, and partners, new and old, we can say goodbye forever to these excruciating but treatable diseases'

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Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Mon 4 Dec 2023, 4:40 PM

Last updated: Mon 4 Dec 2023, 4:55 PM

Global donors who have pledged $777 million to end neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) highlighted the importance of partnerships and collaborations to make a real impact during the Reaching the Last Mile Forum at COP28.

The pledging event was hosted by Reaching the Last Mile (RLM), a global humanitarian initiative supported by UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to eliminate two NTDs — river blindness and lymphatic filariasis — from the African continent.

Bill Simmons, CEO of American Leprosy Missions, believed that new solutions are possible, and that collaboration is the way to reach new frontiers.

“Initiatives like Reaching the Last Mile Forum stimulate ideas and opportunities that can impact real people facing the real challenges of NTDs in their daily lives. Together we can free people suffering from the pain and stigma of NTDs like leprosy, creating pathways to true healing and renewed hope.”

Sir Christopher Hohn, founder and chair of Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), said it was “unacceptable” that millions of children suffer from NTDs even though preventative drugs and treatment are available at low cost. “The climate crisis will only increase the burden of these diseases.”

Shawn Baker, chief programme officer, Helen Keller International, hoped the new pledges would give more children the opportunity to thrive and reach their potential.

“We commit to reaching preschool children in 14 African countries with 138 million additional deworming treatments by June 2026, co-delivered with life-saving vitamin A; testing delivery of paediatric praziquantel; and advocating for scaling up azithromycin distribution in high-mortality settings, using community delivery platforms.”

Tsitsi Masiyiwa, board chair of the END Fund, said the pledges made by global donors were an opportunity to renew everyone’s collective efforts to eliminate more NTDs by 2030.

“An Africa free from river blindness and lymphatic filariasis will restore dignity and social inclusion to millions of people while ensuring that others don’t experience needless pain, stigma, and suffering.”

Elizabeth Tanya Masiyiwa, president and CEO of Delta Philanthropies and Higherlife Foundation, noted “tremendous progress” in reducing the burden of NTDs in Zimbabwe through everyone’s cohesive efforts. “This progress results from everyone from the government, donors, technical partners, and communities working together to end the scourge of NTDs. Today’s pledge is a recognition of our journey so far and what is achievable by 2030. By eliminating lymphatic filariasis and other NTDs in Zimbabwe, we can restore dignity, reduce poverty, and transform the outlook for rural communities.”

Dr Caroline Harper, CBE, CEO of Sightsavers, noted a pledge of $60 million in new funding to fight five trachoma, river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, and intestinal worms.

“Together with communities, governments, donors, and partners, new and old, we can say goodbye forever to these excruciating but treatable diseases.”

Dr David Walton, US global malaria coordinator of USAID, said: “Climate change poses a significant challenge to progress in the fight against malaria, neglected tropical diseases, and other health threats. However, with the commitments and investments announced this week, we are taking an important step towards a world free from these diseases.”

Tom Hall, global head of social impact and philanthropy at UBS Optimus Foundation, added: “We believe in the power of partnerships, like this initiative, to deliver transformative, scalable, and sustainable solutions that can drive measurable impact.”

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