“Huge Step Forward” for Health in the Francophonie

16
Oct

YEREVAN, ARMENIA (12 October 2018) – Today, 57 countries committed to eliminating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) through the adoption of a resolution at the XVIIIe Summit of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF, or International Organization of the Francophonie).Widely supported by civil society organizations across the Francophone space, this resolution commits member states to promoting and reinforcing the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in the Francophone community.

Neglected tropical diseases are afflictions such as blinding trachoma, which is the leading cause of infectious blindness in the world, and sleeping sickness, a potentially deadly parasitic infection which can reach the central nervous system and cause psychiatric disorders among its victims. Although perhaps less well-known than malaria or Ebola, these diseases cause blindness, disfigurement and disability, thus trapping 1.5 billion people worldwide in a vicious cycle of poverty and disease. NTDs keep parents from working and stop children from attending school.

More than 210 million people in French-speaking sub-Saharan Africa are at risk from one of the ten NTDs that have been identified as priorities.

Intensifying the fight against these diseases will help French-speaking countries to achieve progress in other areas of development, including access to education and gender equality. This is because reaching people with NTDs means overcoming the hurdles to accessing some of the world’s poorest and most marginalized communities, contributing to the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and universal health coverage.

“Neglected tropical diseases disproportionately affect the poorest among us, and strong political leadership is needed to make these diseases a global priority,” according to Thoko Pooley, Director of the Uniting to Combat Negected Tropical diseases Support Centre. “We welcome this news from the OIF. It’s a huge step for Francophone leaders to adopt this resolution and hold themselves accountable to eliminating NTDs once and for all.”

Member countries of the OIF been leading global efforts to beat NTDs for decades. Some of their headline achievements include:

  • Country eliminations: In the last two years, Togo and Egypt have both eliminated lymphatic filariasis (also known as elephantiasis), becoming the first two African countries to do so. Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Morocco have all eliminated blinding trachoma in the last several years. Earlier this month, Vietnam eliminated lymphatic filariasis.
  • Research: Francophone research institutions, including the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), and the Institut Pasteur, are world leaders in developing new medicines, vaccines and diagnostics for NTDs.
  • Funding: Canada, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Switzerland were early funders of the African Programme for Onchocerciasis (river blindness) Control. This program to fight river blindness prevented more than 600,000 people from losing their sight in 19 countries. In addition, Belgium and France have prioritized tackling NTDs in their global health policies, with Belgium taking a leading role in financing efforts to eliminate sleeping sickness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“Cooperation in the Francophonie would allow us to offer existing curative and preventive care to all patients and persons at risk and to carry out necessary research in this underprivileged area of global health,” said Dr. Yao Sodahlon, Director of the Mectizan Donation Program. “In the Francophone world, we have the expertise, the means and the partnerships necessary to develop the alternative tools and treatments necessary to the control and elimination of neglected tropical diseases.”

In 2017, NTD programs treated more than a billion people for the third year in a row, including millions not otherwise reached by healthcare systems. Today, more than 300 million fewer people are at risk of NTDs than in 2011, and more than 20 countries have eliminated at least one disease since 2016.

To learn more about NTDs, and the Uniting to Combat NTDs coalition, follow this link: http://www.unitingtocombatntds.org/

For more information about the OIF, follow this link: https://www.francophonie.org/

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About Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)

Neglected tropical diseases affect the poorest, most marginalised and most remote communities in the world. They are a consequence and cause of poverty as they thrive where access to clean water, sanitation and health care is limited. Their impact on individuals and communities can be devastating. Many of them cause severe disfigurement and disabilities. They impact on life expectancy, education and economic opportunities of affected individuals and the communities in which they live.

Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF)

The Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) represents one of the biggest linguistic zones in the world. Its members share more than just a common language. They also share the humanist values promoted by the French language. Created in 1970, the OIF’s mission is to embody active solidarity between its 84 members, which together represent over one-third of the United Nations’ member states.

Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases

Uniting to Combat NTDs is a group of organizations committed to achieving WHO’s 2020 goal to control and eliminate ten NTDs. By working together, Uniting to Combat NTDs aims to chart a new course toward health and sustainability among the world’s poorest communities. Affiliated organizations have signed the London Declaration on NTDs, which was launched on 30 January 2012.

Media Contacts:

Laurin Liu, Global Health Strategies
Phone: +19292726227
Email: lliu [at] globalhealthstrategies [dot] com

Patrick Lee, Social Media and Communications Producer
Phone: +44 1444 224230
Email: patrick [at] combatntds [dot] org