Letter to leaders of member states and governments of the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF)
New York, September 5, 2018
We, civil society organizations situated across the Francophone space, are writing to request your support for a resolution on the elimination of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that has been tabled for consideration at the upcoming OIF Summit on October 11-12 in Yerevan, Armenia. This resolution urges member states to promote and reinforce the fight against NTDs in the Francophone community in line with WHO guidance and international best practices.
NTDs, which include diseases such as human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), leprosy, parasitic helminthiases (worm infestations), visceral leishmaniasis, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, and schistosomiasis (bilharzia), among others, should be a key health priority for the OIF. The elimination of these diseases is recognized as a marker for global progress towards achieving universal health coverage, especially when considering equitable treatment and ensuring that no one is left behind. Sustainable development goal 3.3 also calls for the elimination of NTDs by 2030.
Many of the 1.5 billion people globally at risk of infection from one or more NTDs live in Francophone nations. Multiple OIF member states in Asia, Southern Europe and in the Caribbean are endemic for NTDs. However, the burden is especially high across the 26 sub-Saharan OIF member states, where more than 200 million, or two out of three, individuals are at risk.
Francophone countries and actors have been key in the fight against NTDs. For example:
• Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic and Morocco have eliminated trachoma in the last several years, as validated by the WHO. Over the past two years, Togo and Egypt have become the first two African countries in to eliminate lymphatic filariasis.
• Research institutions based in Francophone countries, including the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), Inserm and the Institut Pasteur, have become world leaders in developing new medicines, vaccines and diagnostics to find, treat and prevent NTDs.
• Canada, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Switzerland participated as critical early funders of the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control, a program which was successful in fighting onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness, within most of its 19 participating countries. In addition, Belgium and France have prioritized NTDs in their respective global health policies.
• An example of successful partnerships and inter-country collaboration, the Réseau Africain Francophones des Experts du Trachome (Francophone African Network of Trachoma Experts) is a network of multisectoral stakeholders working for the elimination of trachoma through sharing information and best practices.
These stories of success and Francophone collaboration illustrate the extent to which concerted action on NTDs can significantly improve the lives of millions of people living in OIF member states. While investments over the past 5 years have given us better tools to prevent, detect and treat NTDs, continued investment in innovation and technology, increased commitment from governments and pharmaceutical companies, and sustained political will is needed to ensure that all communities are freed from these diseases.
This is a timely summit to discuss efforts to eliminate NTDs, as this would support and reaffirm the resolution adopted at the previous summit « Investir dans le secteur de la santé pour soutenir la croissance partagée dans l’espace francophone », adopted on November 27, 2016 by the 16th Summit of the Francophonie in 2016 in Antananarivo, Madagascar.
Working towards the elimination of NTDs would help the OIF make progress in some of its priority areas. NTDs impact success in many development areas covered by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Health (SDG 3) - with an NTD specific target, Poverty (SDG 1), Zero Hunger (SDG 2), Quality Education (SDG 4), Gender Equality (SDG 5), Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6), Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11), and Partnerships for the Goals (SDG 17).
In addition, the prevention of NTDs is relevant for gender equality, and access to quality education for girls and boys. For example, 80% of the burden of trachoma, a painful infection that can cause blindness, is borne by women and girls (as measured by disability-adjusted life years (DALY) to represent health and economic cost). NTDs can also cause certain specific risks with regards to the health of women and girls due to biological factors. For example, schistosomiasis can cause sterility and miscarriage. Women who contract this disease are also up to three times more likely to contract HIV/AIDS.
In addition, neglected tropical diseases affect more than 800 million children, and diminish their capacity to learn and concentrate in school. Often, NTDs keep children out of school. In addition, studies have shown that certain parasitic infections have an impact on cognitive function, affecting learning, memory and intelligence.
For these reasons, we respectfully ask your government to:
• Vote in favor of this resolution regarding NTDs at the upcoming OIF Summit that will be held on October 11-12 in Yerevan, Armenia;
• Support research on NTDs, nationally and at the Francophone level.
In addition, we respectfully ask endemic countries to:
• Ensure that NTDs are a part of domestic health strategies and that the efforts to eliminate them are adequately funded with a dedicated budget;
• Provide adequate funding in order to provide medication through mass drug administration (MDA);
• Work towards providing safe water, sanitation and hygiene, which are essential for preventing and managing NTDs;
• Drive progress towards Universal Health Coverage by strengthening health systems to deliver essential quality health services and prioritising coverage of populations at risk of NTDs.
Mema A Beye, TUTU Fellows
Alhousseini Maiga, medecin
Justin Eyong, Société Camerounaise d'Epidémiologie
Beye Aida, Club Alioune Blondin Beye
Robert Fondze Jr Nsaibirni, Epicentre
Ndong Marcelle, Université des Montagnes
Stève Kowo Ngouana, African Humanitarian Agency
Biheng Junior, Afrique Future
SOHNAGOU Jose-Palatine, PBS
Rodrigue Ntone, Epicentre/Médecins sans frontières
Tchapet Nana Marina, Integration clinic
Tresor Z. Djiakou, International Medical Corps (IMC)
Abdelkader Bacha, AfriCASO
Jean Paul ZAWADI BISHOVU
Yaobi Zhang, Helen Keller International
Zaadnoordijk Willemijn, Merck
El Khou Eby Cheikh, UNICEF
Yao Sodahlon, Mectizan Donation Program
Alami Boutaina, Organisation Panafricaine de lutte contre le SIDA
Anas Benhmidalakhal, Atp+
Wim Vandevelde, GNP+
Hugh Taylor, The University of Melbourne, Australia
JOHNSON ROCH CHRISTIAN, Fondation Raoul Follereau
Dirk Antoon Engels, ancien Directeur du Département de lutte contre les MTN à l'OMS
Alison Krentel, Bruyere Research Institute