Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed calls on the world to end the neglect of tropical diseases

Effective disease responses are essential for human development

People become infected with Guinea worms by drinking unfiltered water from ponds and other stagnant water. Courtesy The Carter Centre
People become infected with Guinea worms by drinking unfiltered water from ponds and other stagnant water. Courtesy The Carter Centre

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, highlighted the challenge of eliminating neglected tropical diseases on Friday as the world marked a global day of action on the threat.

In a tweet, the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces said there was an urgent need to protect communities from the diseases. Sheikh Mohamed has donated more than $250 million since 2010 to efforts to eliminate preventable infectious diseases. The partnership began when the Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed, invited former US president Jimmy Carter to the UAE for the first time.

The Carter Centre and its partners have reduced the incidence of Guinea worm disease from about 3.5 million cases a year in 1986.

It is on track to be the first human disease eradicated since smallpox, and the first to be eradicated without the use of vaccines or drugs.

The World Health Organisation unveiled a new roadmap this week to tackle a total of 20 diseases by 2030. The plan is targeting a 90 per cent reduction in the number of people requiring treatment for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). It also wants at least 100 countries to have eliminated at least one NTD.

The UN health body wants to eradicate two diseases, namely guinea worm or dracunculiasis and yaws, and to reduce by 75 per cent the number of deaths from vector-borne NTDs such as dengue.

The roadmap aims for renewed momentum for the delivery of interventions in the poorest countries. “If we are to end the scourge of neglected tropical diseases, we urgently need to do things differently,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO's Director-General. “This means injecting new energy into our efforts and working together in new ways to get prevention and treatment for all these diseases, to everyone who needs it.”

Mr Carter launched an initiative to eradicate a parasitic disease causing devastation across large parts of Africa with a substantial donation from Sheikh Zayed, which began a decades-long commitment to disease eradication by Abu Dhabi’s ruling family.

On Wednesday, Sheikh Mohamed said: "We are privileged to continue the legacy of ... Sheikh Zayed in our work with the Carter Centre to eradicate Guinea worm disease.

"I thank former president Carter for our decades-long partnership and his unwavering commitment to ending a disease that affects the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

"In the UAE, we have seen first hand the vital link between health and prosperity, and we remain steadfast in our vision of a world where every person deserves to live a healthy, dignified life."

The centre is working on eradicating five neglected tropical diseases: Guinea worm, trachoma, river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, and schistosomiasis.

The second annual World NTD Day aims to raise global awareness of the urgent need to end neglected tropical diseases.

Guinea worm disease eradication is closer than ever. Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Carter Centre reported that the number of Guinea worm cases in people was halved from 2019 to only 27 in 2020.

"Starting with my good friend Sheikh Zayed, and today continued through the generosity of his son, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the UAE has been a staunch ally in the battle against Guinea worm and other neglected tropical diseases," Mr Carter said.

Updated: January 29, 2021 08:15 PM


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