Unite. Act. Eliminate. for NTDs
By Priya Kanayson, MPH
On World NTD Day, we commit to Unite, Act, Eliminate for NTDs
In 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that 50 countries have now eliminated at least one neglected tropical disease (NTD), bringing the global NTD community to halfway to the finish line with the goal of 100 countries eliminating at least one NTD by 2030.
This achievement demonstrates what is possible – even in the face of diminished global attention and competing priorities – when partners come together behind country-led initiatives to achieve a shared vision.
World NTD Day 2024
This year, GLIDE worked closely with the WHO NTDs Department, Uniting to Combat NTDs, and Reaching the Last Mile to coordinate the advocacy campaign for World NTD Day 2024, which builds upon a call to action from President Embaló of Guinea-Bisseau in a piece he published in July 2023. In this article, President Embaló called on African leaders to mobilize the continent’s response to NTDs and to unite, act, and. This call to action provided the ideal platform upon which to build an advocacy campaign for this year’s global day of recognition for NTDs.
Collaboration and partnership are essential in order to achieve the targets in the WHO NTD Roadmap and the broader Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This means that all stakeholders must come together – from affected communities, patient associations and NGOs, to governments, international donors, and pharmaceutical companies. Sustainable action on NTDs requires a whole of society, comprehensive approach that places NTDs as essential components of primary health care systems and initiatives rooted in the experience of the people and communities most affected. As global stakeholders, we must also commit to collaborate to avoid duplication and to join forces to help us move faster towards our shared vision to leave no one behind.
With several global-level commitments and declarations for NTDs, turning rhetoric into tangible action at the scale required is long overdue. As we observe and begin to understand the likely impacts of a changing climate on vectors and disease spread, it is beneficial for us all to finish the job for NTDs while we work within contexts that are understood and for which current tools, diagnostics, and treatments are suited. Simultaneously, we must ensure there are incentives for innovation in R&D for NTDs that will be able to prevent, control, and treat these infectious diseases in a changing climate. In order to act on global commitments for NTDs, governments and stakeholders must have the necessary technical guidance, robust data, and sufficient resources – human, diagnostics and treatments, and financial included.
The ultimate action for many NTDs is to achieve elimination. With 50 countries eliminating at least one NTD as of 2023, we only have 50 more to reach the target in the WHO 2030 NTD Roadmap. Since NTDs are so often underfunded and are truly a reflection of the neglected nature of the diseases and the people they plague, 50 countries receiving this certification from WHO deserves international recognition. The people and communities that these ancient diseases impact are often in the most impoverished and hard to reach areas, often being left off of national health plans and budgets. Despite this neglect, NTDs such as Guinea worm disease are close to achieving the ultimate goal of eradication, with just 13 cases reported in 2023. Elimination necessitates long-term vision, costed NTD master plans that are developed by countries for their own contexts, and sustained funding and resources to get us over the line.
At GLIDE, we firmly believe that advocacy grounded in technical knowledge can help move the needle on progress for NTDs. Our core principles include building on country ownership and local solutions, promoting integrated and health systems approaches, and working in partnerships. We know that together, we can and will accelerate progress towards disease elimination.
World NTD Day is a day to celebrate successes at the beginning of each year, but the momentum must not stop on the 30th of January. It must serve as a continued call for action, advocacy, and investments to ensure that all targets of the WHO NTD Roadmap are achieved by 2030.
Priya Kanayson is a public health policy and advocacy specialist with extensive experience in global health and development. She has a track record of cultivating relationships with high-level partners and building consensus among diverse stakeholders for effective advocacy and policy outcomes in cross-cultural settings. Previously, she was the Policy & Advocacy Manager for the NCD Alliance, where she led advocacy on the integration of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (RMNCAH), universal health coverage (UHC), and financing for health. In addition to leading advocacy and communications at GLIDE, she is a founding member of the Women in Global Health UAE Chapter.
Priya holds a Master of Public Health with the distinction of Delta Omega from New York University and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of California, San Diego.