Deformed legs, extreme scarring and swelling of the skin and tissues, bloody urine, turned-in eyelashes that scratch the cornea; these are some the painful, disheartening effects of Neglected Tropical Diseases – a group of devastating communicable diseases that affect over one and a half billion people across the world.
Although relatively unknown to the international community, these devastating disease affect the poorest, most vulnerable communities in the world and are the cause of death for over 170,000 people per year.
With 40% of infections found in Africa alone, African communities bear the brunt of NTDs. Among children, infection leads to malnutrition, cognitive impairment, stunted growth, and the inability to attend school. While for adults, social isolation and the physical effects of the diseases make it difficult for many to work, leaving African families in a perpetual cycle of poverty.
Throughout our work in increasing access to and improving the quality of education to children in our nation, we saw how educating the child was not enough if the child was stunted due to NTDs or malnutrition and could not attend school. So through a partnership with the END Fund – an organisation that is leading the fight against neglected tropical diseases – we are doing our part to ensure children and their communities in Zimbabwe do not suffer from these disabling and debilitating diseases.
Our efforts through the leadership of our Co-Chair Tsitsi Masiyiwa (who is also an END Fund board member) include supporting the Ministry of Health and Childcare’s (MoHCC) efforts to implement and scale up the national NTD program each year and also assisting in the delivery of mass drug treatments to children to ensure they continue to attend school and learn to their best ability.
To shed light on the compelling stories of the debilitating effects of neglected tropical diseases throughout the world, and the life-saving work that can be and has been done to combat NTDs, together with our partners we hosted the book launch of Under the Big Tree: Extraordinary Stories from the Movement to End Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Speaking at the launch, book author Ellen Agler (who is a public health leader and CEO of the END Fund) shared her commitment at pressing for progress in the fight against NTDs, “We have the chance to turn the tide and eliminate these diseases in our lifetime and ensure those affected are not neglected anymore,” she stated.
The event also provided attendees with an overview of the roadmap underway to eliminate Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in Zimbabwe and saw leading experts share insights into the response to NTDs. We hope more and more people will join the movement to end Neglected Tropical Diseases and ensure that no one is left behind.
*About END Fund – The END Fund is a private philanthropic initiative solely dedicated to ending the most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Since its founding in 2012, the END Fund has raised more than 118 million dollars, treated more than 140 million people with 330 million treatments at a value of more than 620 million dollars, trained over 900,000 health workers, and provided more than 10,000 surgeries to people suffering from blinding trachoma and lymphatic filariasis.