On January 30th, global civil society advocates, community leaders, global health experts, and policymakers will unite to mark the second annual World NTD Day.
Created to galvanize the global health community and engage the general public in the urgent effort to end neglected tropical diseases, World NTD Day will bring together more than 300 partner organizations from 55 countries working across the diverse global health landscape to end NTDs.
The UAE has spearheaded diplomatic efforts to obtain official recognition of the day by The World Health Organization and has played a lead role in galvanizing partners and supporting the day. These efforts continue the UAE’s history and leadership in global disease elimination and are part of Reaching the Last Mile, a portfolio of global health programs working towards disease elimination that is driven by the personal commitment of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
Thoko Pooley, Executive Director of Uniting to Combat NTDs, said: “2021 marks a crucial moment for the fight against NTDs. We are starting this decade of action motivated to deliver real change for the 1.7 billion people affected by neglected tropical diseases. It is a gross injustice that over a billion people continue to be affected by diseases we can prevent or treat. The World Health Organization’s new NTD Roadmap is a rallying cry that tells us that not only is beating NTDs possible, it’s possible within a decade.”
“COVID-19 has placed a huge strain on global health systems, but we refuse to let it beat us down. NTD programs have already proven that they can adapt quickly, ensuring life-saving messages and treatments reach the hardest to reach populations on our planet. We know that by protecting some of the most vulnerable communities from NTDs, we’re making the whole world more resilient to future pandemics.
“Uniting to Combat NTDs applauds His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, for his personal commitment to ending the neglect of neglected tropical diseases this World NTD Day.”
The critical need to end neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)
NTDs affect more than 1.7 billion people – often those living in extreme poverty, in remote communities, and without access to basic needs like clean water – and cost developing economies billions of dollars every year. Significant progress has been made since the landmark 2012 London Declaration on NTDs, which unified partners across sectors, countries, and disease communities to push for greater investment and action on NTDs. Today, hundreds of millions of people no longer require treatment for NTDs and several countries have eliminated diseases that had been prevalent for thousands of years.
But despite this progress, challenges remain with one out of every five people in the world impacted by these preventable diseases. NTDs are responsible for thousands of preventable deaths each year and cause impairments that perpetuate the cycle of poverty by keeping millions of adults out of work and children out of school. The impact of NTDs on communities further intensified in the last year, with the outbreak of COVID-19. In fact, a recently published article in Infectious Diseases on Poverty Journal explained that the economic progress by treating NTDs in the last 20 years is close to being erased by the pandemic.
This year’s World NTD Day is drawing attention to the launch of the World Health Organization’s new roadmap to end NTDs. The WHO Roadmap is a guide for the global health community to create new, innovative cross-sector partnerships, to fill the gaps and strengthen countries’ capacity, and, ultimately, to make NTD interventions sustainable.
World NTD Day Activations
Building on the spirit of global collective action, more than 60 landmarks across 40 cities and 24 nations will be lit up on World NTD Day in an effort to remind people they cannot turn a blind eye to vulnerable health systems around the world. These well-known monuments span the globe with landmarks including The Great Wall of China, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena, and Tokyo Tower.
Amplifying the critical messages of the day will be well-known personalities serving as Ambassadors to the day including Sharon Stone, Sabrina Elba, Avril Lavigne, and Dikembe Mutombo.
In addition, the global community will be activated on social media via entertaining and informative videos, social media challenges, and human stories from affected countries being shared by partner organizations. A series of virtual events were held in the week leading up to World NTD Day, featuring experts and frontline health workers exploring the intersections between NTDs and the broader global health space.
Support from The WHO
Recognizing that the annual celebration of the day provides a vital service to the world’s work to end NTDs, the World Health Organization’s Executive Board passed a decision on 23 January recommending that WHO officially support activities marking 30 January as World NTD Day, and inviting the Member States and others to celebrate the day. The recommendation will be considered at the 74th World Health Assembly, taking place in May 2021.
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