By Linda Asante-Agyei, GNA Special Correspondent, Geneva (Courtesy, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation)
Geneva, April 19, GNA - The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Wednesday committed $335 million dollars in grants over the next four years to support various Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) programmes in affected countries.
This would include; $42 million-dollar that would go for the continuation of Jimmy Carter’s guinea worm eradication initiative and hoped it would be the first parasitic disease to be eradicated.
The rest of the grant would focus on drug development and delivery, disease surveillance as well as vector control and accelerate the elimination of Human African Trypanosomiais, popularly known as “Sleeping Sickness”.
Speaking at the official opening of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) second Global Partners Meeting on Neglected Tropical Diseases in Geneva, Switzerland, Bill Gates, Co-Chair said NTDs were some of the painful, devastating and stigmatising diseases that affected the world’s poorest communities.
“Our total commitment indicates that everybody deserves to live a healthy life and as the years have been very critical, we will improve our work and double down our effort in tackling NTDs”.
Mr Gates commended pharmaceutical companies for their tremendous partnership and the donation of medicines on a large scale by 10 giant companies, which has contributed to the success of the initiative.
“Thanks to this partnership, these neglected diseases are now getting the attention they deserve so fewer people have to suffer from these treatable conditions.
“Though, there have been many success stories in the past five years, the job is not done yet. We have set ambitious targets for 2020 that require the continued commitment of pharmaceutical companies, donors, recipient governments, and frontline health workers to ensure that drugs are available and delivered to the hardest to reach people”.
Mr Alexander de Croo, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation of Belgium pledged an additional $27 million dollars to be spread over the next nine years, toward the elimination of sleeping sickness in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This amount, he said would be matched for the next three years by the Gates Foundation, establishing a platform for increased collaboration between Belgium, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the broader NTD partnership.
The United Kingdom’s Minister of State in charge of International Development, Lord Bates also announced a pledge of 205 million pounds (equivalent to 450 million dollars) over a period of five years to help control and eliminate NTDs.
“NTDs are possible to eliminate and we are not leaving anyone behind,” he added.
Mr Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary-General commended governments, pharmaceutical companies and charitable organisations for their continuous commitment and support in eliminating NTDs.
He admitted that good progress had been made on NTDs, but called for more optimism to get the last NTD eliminated.
Mr Jimmy Carter, Founder of the Carter Centre in a video message commended the partners and the Gates Foundation for their support and commitment and pledged his Centre’s continuous support in eradicating guinea-worm and river blindness entirely from the world.
He called for sustainability of all efforts, adding, ‘elimination is doable and possible.’
Dr Jim Yong Kim, President of The World Bank Group also in a video message, acknowledged the remarkable improvements made in the fight in addressing NTDs, and reiterated his support to help and called on partners to sustain the fight through constant support.
Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, expressed appreciation to all the partners, acknowledging the power of partnering pharmaceutical industries as well as international philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates foundations.
She entreated countries to unite to set priorities and collaborate with the WHO in tackling those priorities.
The Summit, marks the fifth anniversary of the London Declaration, a historic document signed by leaders from diverse sectors committed to controlling, eliminating or eradicating 10 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2020.
Since the London Declaration, fewer people are suffering from these disabling diseases and many countries are eliminating them entirely.
NTDs are a group of debilitating infectious diseases such as elephantiasis, river blindness and trachoma that affect the world’s poorest communities.
These gains, have been made possible by strong global partnerships, country leadership and investments in innovation and technology.
The 2017 summit marks the 5th anniversary of the WHO’s roadmap on NTDs and the London Declaration and to celebrate this milestone, “Uniting to Combat NTDs”.
Representatives of Member States, donor agencies, foundations, the private sector, academia and stakeholders and pharmaceutical companies are participating in the summit.