Berlin, 17 October 2022 - "The global community must act now to sustain the progress made over the last decade in tackling individual neglected diseases". Dr Bernadette Abela-Ridder of the World Health Organization (WHO) opened her statement with this appeal. At the World Health Summit in Berlin, numerous experts met to discuss the importance of the NTD-WHO Roadmap and the Kigali Declaration on NTDs on the international agenda. Bernadette Abela-Ridder further emphasised that the commitments made by numerous states, institutions and philanthropists in the Kigali Declaration will make it easier to put the fight against NTDs into practice. Dirk Meyer, Head of Department at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, called for a holistic approach to combating neglected tropical diseases with more coordination and cooperation. There is "no more time for competition", he appealed, stressing that in his opinion three pillars are important for NTD control: 1. resilient health systems, especially taking into account primary health care, 2. the One Health approach and 3. social security systems.
Dr. Aimable Mbituyumuremyi, from the Rwanda Biomedical Center, Division Malaria, Neglected Tropical Diseases, used Schistosomiasis as an example to describe the efforts being made to reduce the high numbers of infections across sectors. He stressed the importance of cooperation between different ministries in NTD control. Decentralisation is also key, he said, as it is at the community level that needs are truly identified. In addition, he stressed that the assumption of political responsibility by the endemic countries is central to finally eliminating these old infectious diseases so that the poor population can be better off.
Dr. Johannes Waltz, Merck Group, Head of Merck Schistosomiasis Elimination Program, pointed out that his company's large drug donations are only one piece of the puzzle in providing health care to the sick people. The programmes are much broader, he said. Effective and sustainable control requires an integrated approach. His company is working with Rwanda to eradicate the infectious disease of schistosomiasis in that country.
Moses Okwii of the Christoffel Blind Mission in South Sudan described his work with the rural population, the often-missing infrastructure for clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Also, in the region where he works, conflicts with the so-called pastoralists - who move around with their herds in search of good pastures for cattle - occur again and again. He says his challenges are many and he is working on cross-sectoral approaches, but they are far from being achieved.
Dr Luis Pizarro, who recently took up his post as Executive Director at Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), pointed to new research approaches for chagas disease, leishmaniasis and mycetoma. But he also underlined the central role played by health workers in bringing drugs to patients. The programmes from the development of the drug to the treatment of the patients are always part of the solution, he said.
Prof. Dr Achim Hörauf from the University Hospital Bonn and Dr. Dr Carsten Köhler from the Institute for Tropical Medicine in Tübingen moderated the event.
You can watch the event online.