Davos, Switzerland (PRWEB) January 30, 2009 -
The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases today announced that it has received $34 million through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the Sabin Vaccine Institute to step up the global effort to prevent and treat neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). These debilitating and sometimes deadly diseases affect 1.4 billion people worldwide who live on less than $1.25 a day. With the new grant, the Global Network is launching a campaign to catalyze additional funding and will establish a global alliance to scale up NTD treatment and prevention efforts.
Controlling NTDs is considered a "best buy" in public health because of the availability of extremely low-cost interventions and the resulting high return on investment. For approximately 50 cents per person per year, the seven most common NTDs - which together represent 90% of the global NTD burden - can be effectively treated.
"Few approaches in global health offer such an incredible return - in terms of reduced suffering and lives saved - for such a modest up-front investment," said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation. "With this grant, the Global Network is already bringing in new supporters to help control some of the world's most neglected diseases."
With the Gates Foundation grant, the Global Network is launching the "End the Neglect 2020" Campaign to raise public awareness and support from corporations, foundations, and individuals to control and eliminate some of the most devastating and deadly NTDs by 2020. The new campaign features a consumer-driven microsite (http://www.just50cents.org) that educates users about the impact NTDs can have on children and communities and illustrates the incredible difference that even a 50 cent donation can make. The campaign will include the Loose Change Initiative, the Global Network's grassroots fundraising and awareness campaign, designed to give individuals the chance to make an impact on the world's poorest people by simply donating the change in their pockets. Loose Change participants convert nickels, dimes and quarters into meaningful change by organizing collection drives in schools, workplaces, or communities.
In addition, the campaign has developed an "investment book" describing specific NTD investments that individuals or institutions can make, with concrete pay-offs demonstrated in terms of improved health. For example, the investment book highlights a potential investment in Liberia, where $3.6 million over 5 years, or approximately $720,000 per year, will provide comprehensive treatment to 2.4 million people, reaching approximately 75% of the population.
Several major corporations, private donors, and international organizations have already made major new commitments, which were also announced today. These partners include Accenture, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), The Hoffman Fund-a partner of the Alliance for Global Good, the Inter-American Development Bank, Merck & Co., and Pfizer Inc.
"For far too long, the suffering and humiliation of more than one billion people has been ignored, in spite of the fact that we have low-cost, successful treatments at our fingertips," said Kari Stoever, Managing Director of the Global Network. "These new commitments will enable us to truly end the neglect through our unique community-based treatment approach. We are guided by the principle: never underestimate what you can do when you know what can be done."
In addition to supporting the new campaign, the Gates grant will be used to establish an innovative regional-based alliance designed to deliver treatments more efficiently and effectively than ever before. The alliance builds on a successful model that primarily uses a unique community-directed approach. Communities select community drug distributors who are trained by health officials and are responsible for distribution of medicines to their communities through mass drug administration, which includes the tracking of distribution coverage and side-effects to be reported back to the local health center. This approach has been effective at reaching people in remote rural areas because it is led by trusted members of local communities.
The new campaign will build on recent successes in the global fight against NTDs. In 2007 alone, 546 million people around the world were treated to prevent transmission of elephantiasis. River blindness has been nearly eliminated as a public health problem in 10 West African countries, to the benefit of some 60 million people. Large-scale drug donation programs have fueled many of the recent successes. The World Health Assembly has called for global attention and governments have begun to expand their commitments, and the World Health Organization is creating a Global Plan to Combat NTDs. Together, a cross-sector network of NTD-affected communities, national ministries of health, public-private partnerships, and international organizations has formed and is poised to expand treatment coverage.
"The fight against NTDs is at a tipping point," said Dr. Peter Hotez, President of the Sabin Institute and distinguished research professor at The George Washington University School of Medicine. "New investments will help us build on the major successes of recent years and bring us closer to our goal of ending the neglect of NTDs by 2020."
Editors Note: NTDs are a group of 13 parasitic and bacterial infections that are the most common afflictions of the world's poorest people. Spread by mechanisms as simple as a bite of an infected fly or contact with contaminated water, they blind, disable, disfigure and stigmatize their victims, trapping them in an unending cycle of poverty. Research has shown that eliminating NTDs lifts millions out of poverty by ensuring that children stay in school to learn and prosper; by strengthening worker productivity; and by improving maternal and child health. The 13 NTDs are ascariasis, trichuriasis, hookworm, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, trachoma, dracunculiasis, Chagas disease, human African trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis, Buruli ulcer, and leprosy.
About Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases
The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, headquartered at the Sabin Vaccine Institute, is committed to raising the profile of neglected tropical diseases and leveraging international resources to end suffering and death through effective, low-cost treatments. http://www.globalnetwork.org
Members of the Global Network: The Earth Institute at Columbia University, Helen Keller International, International Trachoma Initiative, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, and The Task Force for Child Survival and Development.
About Sabin Vaccine Institute
Sabin Vaccine Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing human suffering from infectious and neglected diseases. Through its efforts in vaccine research, development and advocacy, Sabin works to provide greater access to vaccines and essential medicines for millions stuck in pain, poverty and despair. Founded in 1993 in honor of Dr. Albert B. Sabin, discoverer of the oral polio vaccine, the Sabin Vaccine Institute works with prestigious institutions, scientists, medical professionals, and organizations to provide short and long-term solutions that result in healthier individuals, families and communities around the globe.