Meeting the NTD challenge

28 April 2017

Meeting the NTD challenge
Written by Pete Garratt, The Leprosy Mission International Office.

Five years of exciting progress in eliminating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), which include leprosy, were celebrated last week at the WHO NTD Summit in Geneva. A billion people a year were treated for at least one tropical disease in 2015, and while this is less relevant for leprosy which needs a more sophisticated approach to stopping transmission of the disease, it is nonetheless exciting as evidence of what happens when communities, governments and health authorities, pharmaceutical companies, funding donors, the UN and NGOs, not least The Leprosy Mission, can do when they work together in partnership.

Though there was a positive reflection on progress made so far, I was pleased to see all the organisations represented at the summit focus on their determination to go further, deeper and faster in the coming years. One participant said we need to move from neglected tropical disease to treated tropical disease, and while I admire the drive behind the comment, we must make sure that the more complex needs and issues of the people who are themselves affected are not forgotten by focusing on a medical response to a disease 'challenge'.

Brent Morgan at the WHO NTD Summit 2017.
Some of these needs and issues were well expressed by Kofi Nyarko (pictured above), from Ghana, a member of ILEP’s (International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations) Panel of Persons Affected by Leprosy, who was invited to share his personal experience and also to present a special award to WHO Director General Margaret Chan for her leadership in tackling NTDs.

In light of the ongoing difficulties people affected by leprosy can face even post-treatment, I'm also pleased that, as the 2017 4th WHO report on NTDs reflected, there is a balance between the "challenge [of]: eliminating transmission of NTDs and ensuring that the delivery of health services meets the needs of those living with NTD-related disease".

I was at the summit with Brent Morgan (pictured right), the CEO of The Leprosy Mission International, which signals our commitment to actively engage and seek innovative partnerships with other NTD players to beat NTDs and to defeat leprosy as part of this. Brent told me that "the energy involved in the summit demonstrates that we have a significant opportunity to collaborate and make a major difference in the journey to zero transmission.

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Pete Garratt is Head of Operations Support at The Leprosy Mission International, based in London. He joined the Mission in 2014, bringing more than 16 years of experience in leadership positions with a range of international development and humanitarian organisations, working predominantly across Asia and Africa. Pete is especially motivated about seeing leprosy defeated within his working lifetime.