This World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day, we joined together with influential supporters around the world to draw attention to neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and advocated for more innovation to develop safe, effective treatments by using the hashtag #BestScienceforAll.
Across the world, 1.7 billion people are affected by NTDs such as mycetoma, sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, and river blindness. From Africa to the Americas to Asia, NTDs cause intense suffering, disability and often death, and impoverish individuals, families, and communities.
DNDi was created in response to the frustration of doctors unable to treat patients living with deadly NTDs. This was because the treatments that existed were ineffective, or so toxic that they themselves killed patients, or simply too expensive or unavailable.
Shining a light on NTDs
In 2021, ‘light-up’ campaigns of landmark monuments helped shine a light on NTDs. This year even more of the world shone: 100 monuments – showcasing the 100% committed campaign – in 40 countries were illuminated in orange and purple. At DNDi we organized the lighting up of landmark monuments in in Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Malaysia, Switzerland and Thailand, and supported partners in other countries. See images in the gallery below.
Championing the cause
We are delighted that 25+ influential individuals championed our messages as we called for investment in medical innovation to tackle NTDs. Among them were: actors Sharon Stone, Mia Maestro, and Lazaro Ramos; philosopher Alexandre Jollien; authors Pip Stewart and Daisy Hernandez; and leaders in medicine and science Dr John Nkengasong, YB Khairy Jamaluddin, Dr Mercy Korir, Dr Joanne Liu, Dr Unni Karunakara, Dr Stellah Wairimu Bosiri, and Dr Javid Abdelmoneim.
On World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day, I stand with @DNDi to call for safe and effective treatments for people living with these diseases. We must keep innovating!— John Nkengasong (@JNkengasong) January 30, 2022
Share to spread the word! #BestScienceforAll #WorldNTDDay https://t.co/BRd8eWOv0O pic.twitter.com/s7pBPRuYOY
Muito foi feito para combater doenças tropicais negligenciadas na última década, mas a inovação não pode parar! Fiquemos atentos em apoiar o desenvolvimento de tratamentos mais seguros, simples e eficazes para as DTN. @DNDi_Portugues— Lázaro Ramos (@olazaroramos) January 30, 2022
Je suis Ambassadeur de @DNDi pour la @WorldNTDay, célébrée ce 30 janvier 2022. Je vous exhorte particulièrement à appuyer la recherche menée par @DNDi dans la lutte contre la #THA et l’onchocercose en #RDC #BestScienceforAll . @WHO— Muyembe Tamfum (@MTamfum) January 30, 2022
Treatments and diagnostics for neglected tropical diseases and populations are all-too-often unsafe, unsuitable, or non-existent. 30 January is #WorldNTDDay. I am #100percentCommitted and stand with @DNDi in calling for the #BestScienceforAll #beatNTDs pic.twitter.com/NxPUXMlfPS— Unni Karunakara (@UnniKarunakara) January 27, 2022
There is need to focus is on addressing key diagnostic gaps to achieve the respective neglected disease targets. More innovation & research to improve diagnosis and surveillance for NTDs is key to #beatNTDs #BestScienceforAll @MoniqueWasunna pic.twitter.com/56MmakiUTT— Dr. Mercy Korir (@DrMercyKorir) January 31, 2022
Sharing stories of innovation
To share the stories of patients, healthcare workers, and researchers we showcased five places where innovation is helping to bring the best science to the most neglected. We started in the Democratic Republic of Congo, hearing from a retired teacher living with river blindness about why scientific progress is needed for the disease, before heading east to see the incredible work of the only data centre for clinical trials of its kind in Africa. Then we headed over to India to see how innovation has helped bring visceral leishmaniasis (also known as kala-azar) to the brink of elimination. And in Latin America we discovered how iChagas, a simple mobile app, is helping health workers diagnose and treat Chagas disease. Finally, we stepped into the world of DeepMind to hear about the transformative potential of artificial intelligence in the fight against NTDs.
New global research partnership for dengue
In the lead up to this year’s World NTD Day, we kicked off a new global research partnership. Dengue is a climate sensitive NTD that affects about 390 million people a year. There is no specific treatment for dengue so the partnership, led by disease-endemic countries, aims to find one. To hear more about people’s experiences with the disease, we visited recovered dengue patients in the historic city of Malacca in Malaysia, living in the highest risk areas for dengue, known as ‘red zones’.
Progress on NTDs, but a long way to go
This year’s World NTD Day marked the tenth anniversary of a turning point for NTDs, with the first World Health Organization (WHO) Roadmap on NTDs, and the subsequent ‘London Declaration’ that saw the private and public sector pledge support to tackle NTDs. There are many achievements to be celebrated. Over 30 countries have eliminated at least one NTD as a public health problem. We are close to global elimination for sleeping sickness and in South Asia, to eliminating kala-azar. This hard-won progress is testimony to the value of bold ambitions, strong national responses, and the resolve of frontline health staff.
100% committed to ending NTDs
However, despite these significant achievements there is still much work to do. We still lack safe, effective, and affordable tests and treatments for most NTDs. That’s why this time last year, the WHO launched its new Roadmap for Neglected Tropical Diseases (2021-2030), including consultations with DNDi and other partners. Its goals include the elimination of at least one NTD in 100 countries, and a step-up in innovation to develop and deliver tests and treatments that are affordable and accessible to everyone who needs them.
This year World NTD day kicked off with the 100% committed campaign to get endorsement of the Kigali Declaration – which calls for the political will and resource mobilization to achieve the goals of the new Roadmap. The campaign will seek commitments from governments, donors, pharmaceutical companies, non-profit organizations, civil society, researchers, and others who can make it a reality. It will run through to the Commonwealth Heads of State Meeting, in Kigali, Rwanda later this year.
Sharing our opinions and analysis
The annual G-FINDER report reviews critical trends in medical research and development (R&D) funding on neglected diseases. This year, Dr Kavita Singh, Director of DNDi’s South Asia Regional Office, joined the panel discussion for the launch event. She has also written a statement highlighting how research funding shortfalls are threatening progress for neglected patients.
We are also shared messages through editorial opinion articles, together with key partners:
- Maladies tropicales négligées : les succès méconnus de la recherche congolaise by Chirac Bulanga, Director of DNDi’s Democratic Republic of Congo Regional Office, published in Jeune Afrique
- En tiempos de pandemia, ¿quién se acuerda de las enfermedades olvidadas? by Dr Fabiana Alves, DNDi NTD/Leishmaniasis-Mycetoma Cluster Director, and Dr Jorge Alvar, DNDi Senior Leishmaniasis Advisor, published in El País
Finally, we were pleased to see the world’s media pay greater attention to NTDs with some prominent reporting:
- Infobae: Neglected diseases: the importance of strengthening health systems and equity
- African Newspage: Millions of Africans could miss out on treatment due to funding shortfall for NTDs
- Deutsche Welle: Neglected diseases kill 500,000 a year worldwide
- Frankfurter Rundschau: Tropical diseases: “This is how poverty cycles are created”
- NTV Kenya: Kenya plans to eliminate at least 6 neglected tropical diseases
- RTS: Many tropical diseases have been neglected since the beginning of the pandemic
- Le Temps: The fight against neglected diseases continues, despite the pandemic
- ATS News Agency: Geneva’s landmark Jet d’eau reminds us of tropical diseases
- Thai Post: Siriraj joins DNDi to develop a drug to treat dengue fever