At the event held to honour Nelson Mandela in what is the centenary year of his birth, the World Health Organisation’s long-time partner the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a contribution of $17 million to the Expanded Special Project for Elimination of NTDs (ESPEN). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been at the forefront of the fight against neglected tropical diseases for many years and is now encouraging other partners to join the fight. Through the Foundation’s matching fund venture, the Government of Belgium also decided to contribute to accelerating the elimination of the 5 most prevalent NTDs in Africa. “To step up the fight against neglected tropical diseases and break the vicious circle of poverty-disease-poverty, Belgium pledges $5m to ESPEN, an amount that will be matched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For every dollar invested, two treatments are delivered. This will improve the lives of 20 million people in Africa, in particular the lives of women, adolescent girls and children in the poorest and most marginalized communities.” stated the Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium, Alexander De Croo.
ESPEN, nested within the WHO’s Regional Office for Africa, aims to further emphasize our mandate to bring governments and the NTD community together to strengthen partnerships around the elimination of NTDs. ESPEN represents a unique African effort created to accelerate the elimination of the five preventive chemotherapy NTDs. The size of the NTD burden across the African continent means that a failure to act will have grave consequences. Supporting the most heavily affected countries in our region will be critical to success. This will depend on strong and consistent country leadership to ensure all people, particularly the most vulnerable and marginalized, have access to quality health and services. “When we invest in eliminating neglected tropical diseases, we help more children stay in school and more adults earn a decent living in the world’s poorest communities. That’s why we have pledged $17m to the World Health Organisation to beat these diseases in sub-Saharan Africa. We’re grateful to the government and people of Belgium for matching this pledge with a generous commitment of $5m. Together, this will allow the delivery of donated medicines worth almost $300m to protect the health of millions of people in Africa” said the Chief Strategy Officer and President of the Gates Foundation, Mark Suzman.
After two years of implementation, ESPEN is already producing encouraging results. We are seeing broad-based endemic country leadership against NTDs across Africa, with the elimination of lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem in Togo and that of trachoma in Ghana. These global health milestones prove that eliminating NTDs can transform the African landscape and save millions of lives. What is needed is a new movement – led by those who are ready to beat these devastating diseases once and for all. With these unprecedented examples of collaboration between WHO and public and private partners, Africa has never had a better opportunity to end NTDs for good, and now is the time for renewed action and commitment. “600 million people are at risk of neglected tropical diseases in Africa. ESPEN is working with Ministries of Health and their partners to accelerate the elimination of NTDs and free the continent from this scourge. To achieve our goal, we’ll need to mobilize all our strengths from both public & private institutions. I am delighted to see the Governments of Belgium, Botswana and Mozambique, as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation lead by example and support the efforts of tireless health workers and partners across Africa. Only together can we achieve universal health coverage and change the lives of millions of people around the continent.” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, Regional Director of WHO/AFRO.
Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of WHO/AFRO.