Renewed Energy and Resolve at NTD Summit 2017

We were pleased to attend the NTD Summit 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland, last month, marking the fifth anniversary of the London Declaration on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

AIM Global Director Anna Wickenden and Program Director Emmy van der Grinten joined hundreds of organizations and individuals who are currently leading the fight against NTDs, including several of our partners from American Leprosy Missions, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation and effect:hope.

It was especially wonderful to see Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador on leprosy and a partner of the AIM Initiative, receive a gold medal from Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO, for his great work in service of people affected by leprosy.

Dr. Sultani Matendechero, National Program Manager of Kenya’s Neglected Tropical Disease Programme, shares a new approach to WASH at the NTD Summit.

Of the many inspiring presentations, we’d like to call out Dr. Sultani Matendechero, National Program Manager of Kenya’s Neglected Tropical Disease Programme. He shared a new approach to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to better stop the spread of NTDs. This reinforces the value of more integrated thinking, action and evidence on the importance of linking disease-specific work with other sectors.

This kind of integrated thinking is what drives us at AIM. Prevention is important, but we hope there will also be a continued focus on integrated treatment, surveillance and morbidity management. All of our efforts must be centered around the people we serve.

There are three ways that will help us provide such integrated services:

Partnerships with national governments that do not overburden already-strained resources and health systems.

Cross-disease and cross-sector platforms that efficiently address multiple diseases at the same time.

Surveillance methods that help us better understand where the need is greatest.

As detailed in the fourth report on NTDs shared by the WHO, “data gathering and analysis is a vital part of elimination and control campaigns at all stages of their evolution.” This month the AIM team will be going to Ghana and Liberia with our mapping teams, working on the next phases of data collection in partnership with the Ministries of Health and NTD partners. We will also be in Myanmar to review a pilot mapping program and that will be rolled out to the entire country in the coming year.

The stakes are high, because without diagnosing and treating the millions of people living in remote areas already affected by NTDs, it will not be possible to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

The progress we saw at the Summit, plus the commitments of hundreds of millions of dollars to eliminating NTDs by the UK government, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and many others, are contributing to a renewed energy around these historically ignored diseases that will carry us into the future.