Ahead of the World NTD Day on January 30, global leaders convened today to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the London Declaration and kick off endorsements to the Kigali Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) – a high-level political declaration which aims to mobilise political will and secure commitments to achieve the targets set out in the World Health Organization (WHO) NTD road map 2021-2030 and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target on NTDs.
NTDs are a group of 20 diseases like blinding trachoma, intestinal worms and elephantiasis which are preventable and treatable, but still affect 1.7 billion people around the world. By preventing children from going to school and adults from being able to work, NTDs trap individuals and whole communities in cycles of extreme poverty.
As per the latest data shared by WHO Global Health Observatory, 752 million people in India require preventative chemotherapy (PC) for at least one of the 5 PC diseases. A total of 2 NTDs (Guinea worm disease & Yaws) have been eliminated from the country in the year 2000 and year 2016. However, 54% of the total population of India is still at a risk of getting affected by at least one of the PC diseases that is more than half of the population are affected by NTDs (Elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis), River blindness (onchocerciasis), Bilharzia (schistosomiasis), Blinding trachoma, Intestinal worms).
The Kigali Declaration on NTDs will be the successor to the ground-breaking London Declaration on NTDs that was launched in 2012 and expired in 2020. The London Declaration galvanized donor countries, philanthropists, private sector companies, non-governmental organizations, academia and research organisations to come together and commit to prioritising NTDs.
Key successes since the London Declaration include over one billion people reached with treatment for NTDs each year, five years in a row; 35 countries have eliminated at least one NTD bringing the overall total to 43 countries; and 600 million fewer people now require NTD treatments. Preliminary data shows that only 14 cases of Guinea worm disease were reported globally in 2021, representing the lowest case total, since the beginning of the eradication programme in the mid-1980s. This progress proves that ending NTDs is possible, however, there is still more to be done.
The Kigali Declaration aims to protect the gains that have been made, whilst accelerating action by putting country ownership, integration, and cross-sectoral collaboration front and centre. This will ensure the long-term sustainability of these programmes and the achievement of the WHO NTD road map and SDG 3 targets.
Heads of Government supporting the kick-off of the Declaration included the Prime Minister of Rwanda, H.E. douard Ngirente, President of Nigeria, H.E. Muhammadu Buhari, President of Tanzania, H.E. Samia Suluhu Hassan and Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Honarable James Marape.
Commenting on the Kigali Declaration, H.E. Dr Edouard Ngirente, Prime Minister, Republic of Rwanda said, “More commitments and endorsements for the Kigali Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are needed, to achieve a better future for our people and reach the 2030 targets.”
H.E. Samia Suluhu Hassan, President, United Republic of Tanzania also commented, “This meeting will lay a platform to transform the lives of individuals, including millions of women and girls in Tanzania and around the world who are at risk of being infected with NTDs. I believe the commitment we are going to pledge in this meeting to today will help with equitable access to quality essential health care, which is paramount to limit the transmission of these preventable diseases. It is only through country leadership and ownership that we can truly end these diseases. I commit to offer my full support and call on world leaders to commit and endorse the Kigali Declaration on NTDs.”
Driving endorsements and commitments towards the Kigali Declaration is the 100% Committed to ending NTDs campaign, also launched today. The 100% Committed campaign will be led by countries affected, backed by bold financial and political commitments, and championed by civil society, influencers, and people affected by NTDs calling for action.
The campaign will drive commitments that will relieve needless suffering from NTDs, decrease the health-related drivers of poverty, make health systems more resilient and the world a more equitable and safer place.
Significant challenges remain in the journey to elimination of NTDs, including climate change, conflict, emerging zoonotic and environmental health threats, as well as continued inequalities in access to healthcare services, adequate housing, safe water and sanitation. There are also major gaps in current intervention packages of diagnostics, treatment and service delivery models.
Remarking on what action is needed to tackle NTDs, Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary General of UNCTAD and Chair of Uniting to Combat NTDs said, “Efforts to tackle neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a global health success story and show that ending NTDs is possible. But there is still a lot more work to be done. Building on previous success, and recognising the changing global landscape, we are using World NTD Day 2022 as a catalyst to translate awareness into action, to secure increased resources for NTDs, and crucially to facilitate political leadership and ownership of NTD programmes from around the world. By working together, adopting people-centred approaches, and collaborating across sectors in an integrated manner, we can, and we will, achieve the targets of the World Health Organization NTD roadmap.”
Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also added, “The partnership between the private and public sectors on NTDs, exemplified by the London Declaration, has led to one of the great public health successes of the past decade. The sheer scale of the accomplishment – one billion people reached with treatments each year for the past five years – means that hundreds of millions fewer people are at risk compared to 2012. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is pleased to join many of our long-standing partners in welcoming the new, country-led Kigali Declaration to build on this incredible progress. Funding for NTDs is an investment in health equity – with a focus on integrating NTDs into strengthened health systems, the Kigali Declaration promises a chance at a healthier life for people affected by these debilitating diseases.”
Eliminating NTDs is at the core of strengthening health systems across endemic countries. “We have achieved unprecedented progress in the elimination of neglected tropical diseases – with 43 countries eliminating at least one NTD – in large part due to our shared commitment to the London Declaration. At its 10-year anniversary and on World NTD Day, the biopharmaceutical industry reaffirms its commitment to combat NTDs as a supporter of the Kigali Declaration. Through continued joint action, we can sustain the success we’ve seen in access to NTD treatment and care and co-create solutions for stronger health systems. We welcome the Declaration’s emphasis on country ownership and the importance of mobilizing domestic resources in a sustainable manner and look forward to working with the global health community to bring innovative solutions to accelerate progress,” remarked Thomas Cueni, Director General, IFPMA.
Now in its third year, World NTD Day (January 30), aims to generate awareness and action around the need to end neglected tropical diseases. The day was officially recognized by the WHO in 2021 following the unanimous adoption of a resolution proposed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) alongside Oman and Brazil. This year, World NTD Day will see over 100 key landmarks across the globe light up in unity to bring attention to NTDs with support from more than 350 global partners.
Demonstrating country support for World NTD Day, H.E. Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation said, “On World NTD Day, the UAE stands with our partners and friends all around the world to demonstrate that collective action grounded in global solidarity can in fact eliminate these preventable and treatable diseases and lift billions of people out of extreme poverty.”
The Rt Hon Amanda Milling MP, Minister of State, Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), United Kingdom also added, “I am pleased to join partners in celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the London Declaration, and the achievements we have made over this last decade. The UK Government is proud to have supported the delivery of over half a billion treatments across 30 countries and contributed to strengthening health systems in countries most affected by Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). It is great to see the Kigali Declaration take forward progress we have made, to ensure countries most affected by NTDs are at the centre of the response.”