Activities of the DNTDs

Professor Helge Braun, Head of the Chancellery, long-time supporter in combating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)

Berlin - January 27, 2020. On the occasion of the first World Day against Neglected Tropical Diseases on January 30th, 2020, Prof. Dr Helge Braun, Head of the Chancellery was guest at the fireside chat of the German Network against Neglected Tropical Diseases (DNTDs). It’s rarely known that Professor Braun with his expertise as a medical doctor has been committed since long times to combating neglected tropical diseases. At the fireside chat, he reaffirmed his personal commitment. He stated that due to his experience in federal politics he knows about the limiting factors many countries have because of lacking functioning health systems. They are limiting factors for building up prosperity, security and peace policy. He hoped that the current outbreak of the Corona virus will raise awareness of the need for good global cooperation. Professor Braun further pointed out that a holistic approach to fighting diseases is important, but the goal should not be lost sight of. That is why there is a need for committed people who "persevere" and cited the Guinea worm eradication program as a good example.

He said that the German federal government supports the WHO in the fight against neglected tropical diseases and will continue to support it. When asked about the renewal of the so-called London Declaration in Kigali this year, he said: “The issue is more pressing today than it was at the time of the London Declaration. So why shouldn't anything happen?” Personally, he would be happy if more programs could be launched. Because, with a view to the sick, the Head of the Chancellery stated: "You can't let people live like this,"

It was among others Professor Braun who was involved in the fact that issues of global health, including neglected tropical diseases, have been on the international agenda of the annual summits of heads of state and government since 2015. Since then these diseases have received increased attention and found their way in the final declaration of the G7 summit in Elmau in 2015 and G20 summit in Hamburg 2017. Through his influence, the health and research ministers of the G7 and G20 countries have recognized the importance of fighting neglected tropical diseases and have spoken out in favor of increasing their commitment to measures against these diseases.

A fund to support product development partnerships for NTDs and other poverty-related diseases was set up in 2011 under his leadership at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Under his leadership, the Federal Chancellery hosted the 3rd Germany Forum in 2017 on the topic "What is important to people - global health and innovation". Neglected tropical diseases were one of the central topics.

At Professor Braun's suggestion, a comprehensive study of the research landscape in neglected tropical diseases in Germany was also carried out.

As Minister of State in the Federal Chancellery, Professor Braun initiated the round table “Neglected Tropical Diseases” in 2015, 2016, 2017 together with the German Network against Neglected Tropical Diseases (DNTDs). For the first time, representatives of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG), the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Federal Foreign Office (AA) met with members of the Bundestag and the DNTDs to discuss the activities of the Federal government to report both in research funding and in the fight against NTDs on site in endemic countries. Today, ministerial representatives meet regularly to discuss global health issues.

Workshop at the World Health Summit 2019

Berlin – October 10, 2019. At the World Health Summit (WHS), the German Network against Neglected Tropical Diseases organized a workshop. The focus was on integrating the fight against neglected tropical diseases into the concept of universal health coverage (UHC). “Numerous endemic countries have now recognized the need to combat neglected tropical diseases and have drawn up national plans. It is now important to implement all activities under the aspect of universal health coverage in cooperation with the World Organization (WHO) in the respective countries,” emphasized Mwelecele Ntuli Malecela, program director for neglected tropical diseases at the WHO. This aspiration, integration into national health systems, will be increasingly reflected in the new WHO roadmap to combat NTDs, which will be adopted by the WHO next year, Malecela said.

Yao Sodahlon, director of the Mectizan Donation Program, emphasized the private sector's commitment to the fight against NTDs. "Great efforts are being made to ensure that the medication reaches the sick people. If one speaks of the" last mile "that needs to be taken to reach the people, this is only partially true. These people even live beyond the last mile," said Sodahlon.

Louise Kelly-Hope, Head of Monitoring and Evaluation Operational Research of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine said that new digital solutions to monitor neglected tropical diseases can also strengthen health systems in endemic countries.

Sahayarani Antony, Head of Social Affairs at DAHW and Kirsty Thompson, Strategic Advisor on Disability Inclusion from CBM Australia, described how people with disabilities caused by NTDs can connect with activists who stand up for their rights. Disabilities caused by NTDs often are not innate but arise in the course of life caused or exacerbated by the poor living conditions of people, e.g. due to a lack of health systems, nutrition, limited access to clean water and poor hygiene. In order to be able to help the people affected, the fight against NTDs should be seen as a cross-cutting issue.


World Water Week Stockholm 2019

Stockholm/Berlin – August 27, 2019.  German WASH network and DNTDs organized for the first time a joint session "WASH and Neglected Tropical Diseases: Improving Inclusion and Health" at the International World Water Week. Every year, the WWW brings together around 3,000 experts, representatives of governments and multilateral organizations who deal with all questions related to water, particularly in emerging and developing countries.

The main focus of the session was to show the connections between WASH and the fight against NTD. Karl Puchner from DAHW described the challenges of NTDs and the why it WASH aspects must also be considered. Constanze Bönig from Veterinarians Without Borders talked about the special problems of animal husbandry and water. Yael Velleman, formerly with WHO and now with the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, presented the WHO toolkit on WASH and NTD control, presented at the NNN meeting in Addis Ababa last year. Waltaji Terfa from the WHO Regional Office in Ethiopia described the experience in this endemic country and called for a joint “commitment” and an “accountability matrix” to better interlink the activities of the two sectors

The participants of the joint session, predominantly from the WASH area, engaged in discussions on the topics of evidence, capacity building and coordination, each with a view to combining the two areas of activity.

Harald Zimmer, member of the board of the DNTDs, Senior Consultant International, Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (vfa) emphasized, that the event was a very good first initiative to jointly talk on cross-sectoral topics. He continued that he was pleased to inform the WASH community that activities for NTD control are largely missing within WASH-programmes though they are very important. Important not only for fighting NTDs but also for sustainable and successful WASH programmes. Harald Zimmer therefore argued in favor for more joint cooperation.

Federal Minister Dr Gerd Müller at the Initial Symposium

Berlin/Würzburg 22 May 2019 – With the plea “Stop diseases of poverty. Together, we can do it!”, Dr Gerd Müller, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, addressed the roughly 150 guests invited to the initial symposium of the German Center (DZVT) for the Multisectoral Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases at the Würzburg residence. “This will provide light and hope,” he said in support of the work by experts from the fields of science, civil society and the private sector, who presented their contributions to the multisectoral control of neglected tropical diseases. Seven founding institutions, renowned stakeholders from academia, civil society and the church, have joined forces to present the global health system with a holistic approach to combatting NTDs. This approach goes far beyond infection research: It ranges from applied economics, logistics, political science and sociology through to ecology, climate research and medical science and is ideally both applied and translational. The goal is to make Würzburg a national leader with far-reaching international visibility in researching and combatting neglected tropical diseases and to thereby give rise to Global Health 4.0.

Parliamentary Evening with Dr Mwelecele Ntuli Malecela, Director of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases at the World Health Organization

Berlin, 16 May 2019 – At the Parliamentary Evening on the World Health Organization and Neglected Tropical Diseases: New Alliances after 2020?, Dr Mwelecele Ntuli Malecela, Director of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases at the World Health Organization (WHO), provided information on the status of the roadmap on neglected tropical diseases. It is currently being updated beyond 2020 and adapted to ensure that the target values pursued in the sustainable development objectives can be achieved. Dr Malecela invited the German stakeholders to take part in the commentary.

Andrea Spelberg, Head of Global Health at the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF), provided assurances that the federal government will take part in the consultation process. The BMBF is taking the lead in the federal government when it comes to neglected tropical diseases. Ms Spelberg emphasized that there are hardly any other political fields where there is such effective coordination between the federal departments.

Heike Baehrens, a member of the German Parliament, Chair of the Global Health subcommittee and Deputy Chair of the Parliamentarian Board to Fight NTDs and Strengthen Health Systems, emphasized that she took the request to the federal government to take part in the roadmap commentary seriously. A lot could be achieved with a minimum of outlay by fighting neglected tropical diseases. Baehrens also said that she was delighted that Germany has taken the initiative by supporting ESPEN (Expanded Special Project for Elimination of Neglected Tropical Disease).

Dr Georg Kippels, a member of the German Parliament and Chair of the Parliamentarian Board to Fight NTDs and Strengthen Health Systems, explained that, thanks to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, neglected tropical diseases have become an important theme within the federal government. However, implementing the sustainable development objectives and the objectives of the London Declaration on the Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases is a Herculean task, which still requires a lot of work.

Prof. Achim Hörauf, Director of the Institute of Microbiology, Medical Immunology and Parasitology at the University Hospital Bonn and spokesperson for the German Network against Neglected Tropical Diseases (DNTDs), indicated that the new roadmap of the World Health Organization is changing focus slightly to concentrate on the patient and his/her rights. Using its technological capabilities, Germany could focus, in particular, on epidemiological monitoring and analysis of NTD prevalences and incidences. The successes achieved with mass treatment for affected population groups, in the case of river blindness or elephantiasis, for example, make it necessary to consolidate improvements in individual care and diagnostics. To this day, this monitoring poses a considerable challenge for the national healthcare systems. The number of people affected is often significantly greater than the number recorded by the current NTD elimination programs – this is true in the case of elephantiasis associated with lymphatic filariasis, for example. For people to be able to exercise their right to access health benefits (SDG 3 - good health and wellbeing) in the future, the corresponding benefits must also be provided in the countries in question; this will require more accurate figures in terms of frequency (prevalence).