Berlin / Bonn / London / Nairobi, June 24, 2020. The focus of the WEB TALK was on combating neglected tropical diseases in times of the COVID-19 pandemic. The panelists were Prof. Dr. Achim Hörauf, Speaker for the German Network against Neglected Tropical Diseases, Director of the Institute for Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology at the University Hospital Bonn and consultant in the subgroup Lymphatic Filariasis of the DTAG (diagnostics technical advisory groups) of the WHO, Dr. Georg Kippels, Member of the German Bundestag, Speaker of the Parliamentary Advisory Board on Combating Neglected Tropical Diseases and Strengthening Health Systems, Member of the Global Health Subcommittee, Prof. Dr. Martin Kollmann, specialist consultant at CBM for neglected tropical diseases, CBM Nairobi and Dr. Johannes Waltz, Head, Schistosomiasis Elimination Program and Global Schistosomiasis Alliance, Global Health, Group Corporate Affairs, Merck KGaA. The event was moderated by Ute Lange.
All the participants agreed that COVID-19 currently dominates the health policy agenda thus making it more difficult to combat neglected tropical diseases. On the other hand, through this pandemic health issues have gained more attention again. COVID-19 has shown again that diseases don’t know borders. Therefore, resilient health systems - all over the world - are crucial. Dr Johannes Waltz from Merck, explained that although the current situation presents Merck with a "tremendous challenge", his company will clearly stand by its engagement. They will adhere to the commitments to combat NTDs even beyond the London Declaration. Dr. Georg Kippels welcomed the fact that the Federal Government, in particular the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) heard the warning and made health a priority issue in development cooperation again. He emphasized that projects that contribute to a sustainable health system should be sustainable and therefore need long term financing. Prof. Martin Kollmann emphasized that the pandemics COVID and Ebola as well as the neglected tropical diseases have common roots that are based on inequality and weak health systems. In international global health, the NTDs should be used - even more than before - as an indicator to proof whether a health system can ensure comprehensive care. Prof. Dr. Achim Hörauf expressed his hope that joint efforts together with the relevant ministries will be made on the topics of digitization, regionalization, better diagnostics and hospital partnerships in order to meet future challenges such as urbanization and climate change.