BY DAYO ADESULU
Parliamentarians from 23 countries have called on the G7 leaders to invest in neglected tropical diseases.
As the 49th G7 Summit in Hiroshima approaches, the parliamentarians urged the G7 Leaders to renew their commitments to end neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by prioritising bold action and investment to end these diseases once and for all.
NTDs are a group of twenty preventable and treatable diseases that affect more than 1.7 billion people worldwide. These diseases cause untold suffering, can disable, disfigure, and be fatal. In addition to the human toll, NTDs have a significant economic impact, resulting in billions of dollars in associated costs and lost productivity each year.
As parliamentarians and legislators, we are proud of our long history of fighting NTDs. Over the years,
these contributions have had a significant impact on people’s lives. Incredible progress has been made; 47 countries have eliminated at least one NTD, with several countries having eliminated two, three or four NTDs, and in 2020, 600 million fewer people required interventions against NTDs than in 2010.
Funding NTDs makes good financial sense. Many low-cost interventions for NTDs exist, are affordable to implement in low-income settings, and yield a robust return on investment. Drug donations for
interventions like preventive chemotherapy, for example, have been particularly efficacious and cost-effective, with over 19 a billion tablets donated by the pharmaceutical industry to deliver the WHO NTD roadmap so far. The end of NTDs offers a net benefit to affected individuals of about US$25 for every dollar invested by funders—a 30 per cent annualized rate of return.
However, setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and global economic slowdowns are threatening the progress made to date. Unless sustained action is taken, there is a real risk of a reversal of gains and more people being pushed into poverty due to preventable diseases.
The G7 has a well-established history of taking important action against pressing global health issues and has notably prioritised neglected and poverty-related diseases during past Summits. We commend the G7 for making clear commitments to invest in the prevention and control of NTDs during the 2015 Elmau Summit to help reach critical global elimination targets. These commitments led to expanded support to affected countries and accelerated critical research and development. More recently, we applaud the G7’s commitment to strengthening global capacity to prevent, prepare for, and respond to future global health emergencies, especially through the G7 Pact for Pandemic Readiness endorsed in Elmau in 2022.
Investing in NTD programmes is critical to achieving the G7 priorities of universal health coverage (UHC) and pandemic preparedness, prevention, and response (Pandemic PPR) efforts. Global health emergencies, like COVID-19, stem from persistent underinvestment in global health, insufficient disease surveillance, inadequate global data sharing, and weak health systems, compounded by inadequate pandemic preparedness.
Investing in fighting ongoing epidemics like NTDs, as well as malaria, HIV, and TB, leads to stronger health systems and workforces that are better equipped to detect and respond to both existing epidemics and future outbreaks of new diseases. Eliminating one or more NTDs also requires the establishment of robust disease surveillance systems, which can also improve the early detection of new health threats, allowing for a faster and more effective response.
Equally, the scope and access of NTD programmes to some of the world’s poorest communities can provide a gateway to achieving UHC. In some settings, NTD programmes represent a community’s first entry point to the health system. Training health workers to provide high-quality treatment, conducting disease surveillance, and encouraging referral to the local health facility helps to strengthen health
systems. Investments in NTD programmes expand access to health services to hard-to-reach populations and free up the capacity to address other health issues. As such, we call on the G7 to ensure that NTDs and other infectious diseases are included in new commitments being made, particularly funding for UHC.
When the G7 acts together, they can achieve ambitious goals. We believe that the G7 has a critical role to play in renewing support to end NTDs, and in ensuring that this support is backed by concrete actions and financial commitments. As such, we call on the G7 Leaders to commit to the following:
“We acknowledge and commend the G7’s endorsement of the Kigali Declaration on NTDs, a country-led, landmark political declaration that is mobilising political will, community commitment, resources and action, and securing commitments needed to end the suffering caused by NTDs.
We call on G7 Leaders to continue to meet their NTD commitments with concrete action and robust resources, to further prioritise NTDs in successive G7 Leaders’ Statements, and to champion NTDs at G20 Summits and other high-level political fora commitment, resources and action, and securing commitments needed to end the suffering caused by NTDs.
We commend the G7 Leaders’ longstanding commitment to achieving universal health coverage (UHC) and for prioritising UHC at the 49 Summit. The scope and access of NTD programmes to some of the world’s poorest communities are a gateway to achieving UHC and an indicator for equity. We urge the G7 to advocate for investments in primary healthcare to help reach UHC targets, as well as funding for NTDs as part of new UHC commitments at the UN High-Level Meeting on UHC in September 2023.
We commend G7 nations for historic and continued investments in product development and to Research and Development, through partners such as the Global Health Innovative Technology Fund (GHIT) and Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi).
We call on G7 leaders to increase investments in research and innovation for vaccines, new drugs and diagnostics, to help reach the goals set out in the World Health Organization’s NTD roadmap, as well as financing to ensure access to these innovations and technologies to the most vulnerable populations affected by neglected tropical diseases.
We applaud the G7 for strengthening their investment in pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. Investing in fighting ongoing epidemics – including NTDs, malaria, HIV, and TB – is critical to strengthening the world’s capacity to prepare for future pandemics. We call on the G7 to advocate for the control and prevention of current epidemics, particularly NTDs, as part of the UN High-Level Meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response in September 2023.
We celebrate the financial commitments G7 countries have made against NTDs, and we call on G7 leaders to sustain or increase bilateral and multilateral support to low- and middle-income countries, and to commit to establishing accountability mechanisms to track these commitments. Such support will help to ensure that these countries have the resources they need to address the NTD crisis and prevent future outbreaks.
In conclusion, we urge G7 Leaders to prioritise action and investment towards ending NTDs. This critical issue requires urgent attention and global cooperation to prevent further harm to individuals and communities. The NTD crisis not only affects public health but also has a significant economic impact. If left unaddressed, it will drive more people into poverty and reverse decades’ worth of progress. Tackling NTDs is essential to G7 priorities to improve Pandemic PPR and the achievement of UHC.
You can count on our support as Global Parliamentarians to be champions, alongside each of you, of a more equitable and just world for all. We must work together to end NTDs.”