UAE buildings to light up for World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day

Landmarks in the Emirates will join others around the world in raising awareness about the communicable diseases

Buildings around Abu Dhabi lit up for World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Media Office
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Landmarks in the UAE will join up to 100 others around the world on Sunday evening by lighting up to raise awareness about World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day.

This marks the third annual World NTD Day and aims to highlight the battle against a diverse group of communicable diseases that affects more than 1.7 billion people, including one billion children, worldwide. The World Health Organisation has set a target to eliminate at least one NTD in 100 countries by 2030.

These include river blindness (onchocerciasis), leprosy, elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis), Guinea worm disease, rabies and intestinal worms (soil-transmitted helminths). NTDs can debilitate, disfigure and in some circumstances be fatal.

Today, building on the success of the London Declaration on NTDs, and recognising the changing global landscape, we are using World NTD Day 2022 as a catalyst for action
Thoko Elphick-Pooley, Uniting to Combat NTDs

A total of 100 landmarks in 32 countries, including the UAE, lit up on Sunday evening. Some of the more recognisable buildings involved in the campaign are the Great Wall of China, Niagara Falls, Rome's Colosseum, Christ the Redeemer and The Bell Tower in Perth.

Closer to home, residents will have seen Sheikh Zayed Bridge in Abu Dhabi and Expo 2020 Dubai were taking part in the campaign.

Special focus was placed on landmarks in countries affected by NTDs, such as Ghana, Niger, Rwanda and South Sudan.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, shared a message online to commemorate the day.

"On World NTD Day, we renew our commitment to working with our international partners to combat neglected tropical diseases. Through sustained co-operation & targeted investment, we stand on the brink of a historic opportunity to eradicate NTDs & create a healthier future for all," he wrote.

World NTD Day was originally announced in 2019 in Abu Dhabi, and, fittingly, several monuments, universities and buildings in the capital were lit up to raise awareness.

"Today, building on the success of the London Declaration on NTDs, and recognising the changing global landscape, we are using World NTD Day 2022 as a catalyst for action," said Thoko Elphick-Pooley, executive director of Uniting to Combat NTDs.

"We are launching the 100% Committed campaign, a global movement to secure increased resources for neglected tropical diseases, and crucially to facilitate political leadership and ownership of NTD programmes from affected countries, through endorsements and signatories behind the new Kigali Declaration on NTDs."

Diba Cisskho, 70, lost his eyesight to river blindness. His translucent eyes are the telltale sign of the disease, which is transmitted by black flies. The END Fund is working to eradicate river blindess in Senegal. Scenes from Tambanoumouya, Senegal where 66% of the village suffered from the disease in 1986 and today it is nearly nonexistent.

World NTD Day was officially recognised by the WHO in May last year after the UAE helmed diplomatic efforts to obtain official recognition of the day.

The Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi continues to play a leading role in building partnerships and supporting World NTD Day through the Reaching the Last Mile Initiative (RLM), a portfolio of global health programmes focused on accelerating progress towards disease elimination that are driven by the personal commitment of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed.

"Over the past few decades, incredible progress has been made towards ending NTDs; however, one in five people in the most vulnerable communities around the world are still affected by these preventable and treatable diseases," said Nassar Al Mubarak, senior director at the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi.

"We are pleased to see World NTD Day providing a platform for raising awareness through the new 100% Committed campaign led by Uniting to Combat NTDs and efforts such as the light-up activation. "

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative effect on progress in the battle against NTDs.

The virus affected essential healthcare services across the world, including NTD programmes. A recent WHO survey indicates that NTD programmes have been among the health services most frequently affected by the pandemic.

Updated: January 30, 2022, 11:06 AM