The R&D Appeal to governments was launched simultaneously in London,Nairobi, Rio de Janeiro, and New Delhi on Wednesday, 8 June 2005
Determined to contribute not only in terms of drug research and development but also raised awareness, DNDi brought together people and organisations on 8 June 2005, a month before the G8 summit, in an ambitious advocacy campaign: An international appeal to all governments to boost R&D for neglected diseases. The R&D Appeal was launched simultaneously via press briefings in London, Paris, Nairobi, Rio de Janeiro, and New Delhi.
The aim of the Appeal is to stimulate public commitment and support for drug R&D for neglected diseases. The launch of the Appeal marks the first step in a year-long global campaign that will be promoted at a series of scientific conferences and public events, and will culminate at the World Health Assembly in May 2006. The signatures collected will be presented to member states at the WHA urging governments to transform promises into action.
"When DNDi asked me to sign this appeal, I felt greatly honoured [...] because this is something of tremendous importance", said Sir John Sulston, speaking at the London press event. "DNDi, MSF and Oxfam, and their associates in this call for action, are now providing a desperately needed leadership on policy".
Speakers at each of the five venues urged governments to wake up to the reality of tens of thousands of needless deaths due to lack of new and efficacious drugs for neglected diseases. As the SARS crisis clearly shows, policy makers and the scientific community can spring to action when the need is great.
"Governments have to be the primary actors in setting the agenda to respond to patients' needs," said Dr James Nyikal, speaking on behalf of the Kenyan administration. Leaders of wealthy countries must not be content to merely increase their commitment every year, but must match it to the real needs of patients. To make this happen, however, developing countries, too, must craft bold policies involving South-South cooperation to fight the diseases that affect their people.
The R&D Appeal campaign will actively mobilise researchers, policy makers and NGOs to promote and amplify the issue in disease-endemic countries, bring it into the public arena, and better document the problem. Success of this major advocacy effort in one year will be measured by increased debate among relevant actors about the needs of invisible, neglected patients.
In this respect, the reference to neglected diseases in the language of the last G8 summit's final declaration on Africa is a very encouraging start.