An Abu Dhabi-backed campaign seeking to end the scourge of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) has received a funding injection of US$22.5million to boost its elimination efforts in three East African countries.
The donation from the Helmsley Charitable Trust, a US-based foundation, to the Reaching the Last Mile Fund (RLMF) will be used to accelerate the treatment and elimination of onchocerciasis (river blindness) and lymphatic filariasis (LF) in Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Sudan.
“Collaboration is key,” said Walter Panzirer, a trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust, who came to Abu Dhabi to announce the funding.
“This is something bigger than everyone. Not one person, one organisation, or one foundation can do this alone,” he added. “We hope our funds act as a catalyst to bring even more funders here to achieve elimination of these neglected tropical diseases.”
The RLMF is a 10-year $100m multi-donor platform launched in 2017 by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to target river blindness and lymphatic filariasis in seven countries (Ethiopia, Chad, Niger, Sudan, Mali, Senegal, and Yemen).
Both a symptom and a cause of poverty, NTDs affect more than 1.7billion people globally, thriving in the most marginalised corners of the world – remote, rural communities or conflict zones, where health systems are weak – despite being easily preventable and treatable.
River blindness, transmitted by the bites of blackflies, is the world’s second-leading infectious cause of blindness. LF, meanwhile, is a mosquito-borne disease, known by its symptom elephantiasis. It affects more than 120 million people worldwide and of those, more than 40 million are incapacitated or disfigured by the disease.