NTD Partners Message at WHO/AFRO ESPEN


Yaobi Zhang, NTD expert and NNN ExCo member, attended the WHO/AFRO Expanded Special Project for Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ESPEN)'s PC-NTD Program Managers meeting, 17-19 July Kigali, Rwanda. The theme is Reaching Everywhere – Towards 2020.


NTD Partners Message - delivered by Yaobi on 17 July 2018


Mr Chair

Dr. Moeti, the Regional Director (via video)

Dr Diane Gashumba, the Honorable Minister of Health, Rwanda.

Dr. OLU, WHO Country Representative, Rwanda

Dr Rebollo, the ESPEN Team Leader

Distinguished participants


Ladies and Gentlemen, 


It is my great pleasure to be here and to represent the NTD partners. On behalf of the partners, I wholeheartedly congratulate WHO/AFRO and the ESPEN Secretariat on the opening of this important PC-NTD Program Managers meeting.

We all know of the global burden and consequences of NTDs, so I am not going repeat what we already know. But one thing I will say, Africa is at the centre of the fight against these devastating diseases, and it is the work of YOU, the program managers and your partners. It is your dedication and hard working on the ground that has made the amazing accomplishments we’ve seen to date possible, such as more than one billion NTD treatments being distributed and elimination efforts succeeding in Togo, Egypt and Ghana. There are also other countries on the verge of achieving such a milestone, for example, Mali and Burkina Faso have achieved stopping trachoma MDA across their countries. We must applaud all the countries for their tremendous achievements.

Ladies and gentlemen,

While we celebrate the achievements, let’s not forget, we still have work to do and a long way to go to eliminate NTDs from all of Africa. We have not scaled up to 100% geographical coverage. Even in areas already covered, consistently achieving optimal program coverage is a challenge. If we do not address these urgently, eliminating NTDs from all of Africa will fail. We hope, through these three-day’s discussion we can find a way or ways to address these issues. 

Similarly, we need to improve the quality of the data we collect, and make sure that Program Managers have the tools and technical guidance they need, and that data is reported, shared, reviewed and approved without delay. Dear colleagues, we need to make a major push to make what is lacking become available and what is sluggish become efficient.  

ESPEN has built a data portal, the ESPEN Portal. It is built for the NTD community and should be kept up by the NTD community. All endemic countries and NTD partners should feed the data into the database in a timely fashion, so that national programs can have near ‘real time’ data to make program decisions to leave no one behind, in receiving treatment as well as in stopping receiving treatment.

As countries, regions, and districts move towards the last mile, let’s not forget, sustaining the gains is key. We need to enhance cross border collaboration for transient populations and address the human risks from zoonotic NTDs. We must invest, including domestic financing, in building country capacity by strengthening national health systems to ensure the disease is gone for good once elimination is verified, and make sure that there is continued care for individuals who suffer from the impact of NTDs, so that truly no one is left behind.

As NTD partners, our purpose is simple: to support country programs achieve their goals. Our strategic direction and priorities are aligned with those of WHO and endemic countries. We are committed to supporting and working within the ESPEN partnership to achieve our key strategic goals in Africa. The successes achieved in countries demonstrate how Ministries of Health, working with NTD partners, together with donor support and generous donation of medicines, under the WHO technical guidance, can not only improve the health and lives of people, but also eliminate NTDs from countries entirely.


I would like to cite a Helen Keller quote. I know you have heard this many times, but every time when I read it, it makes great sense, particularly in our effort to eliminate NTDs. “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”, she said. 

We all need to work together towards the common goals. ESPEN has a crucial leadership role in coordinating all the efforts in Africa to make full use of the available resources to maximize the impact. We are pleased ESPEN has taken a transparent, collaborative and coordinated approach with partners in supporting endemic countries.

In this spirit, we believe, NTDs will be eliminated from this continent.

I wish this meeting a great success!

Thank you so much.