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Ellen joins former African leaders: speak out against UK withdrawal of Neglected Tropical Disease Funding

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Former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has joined 32 other former heads of state to speak out against UK withdrawal of Neglected Tropical Disease Finding.

In a tweet Saturday, July 3, 2021, Mrs. Sirleaf wrote that “withdrawing neglected tropical disease funding undermines years of progress toward eliminating #NTDs in Africa.”

“I joined 32 other former heads of state to encourage continued interventions to avoid further loss of life to these diseases. #BbeatNTDs.” Mrs. Sirleaf noted

The 33 former African heads of states issued a statement at the end of June appealing for international solidarity in response to the UK’s withdrawal of neglected tropical disease funding.

 The UK government decided to withdraw £150 million in funding to tackle these diseases, money which they say would have delivered over 250 million treatments this year alone.

The UK’s decision effectively abandons over 200 million of Africa’s poorest and most vulnerable people that it promised to support. According to a document, out of the 26 countries affected by these aid cuts, 24 are in Africa.

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a global success story, with 43 countries eliminating an NTD.

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) like blinding trachoma and intestinal worms are preventable and treatable, yet they still affect 1.7 billion people around the world. By preventing children from going to school and adults from being able to work, NTDs trap individuals and whole communities in cycles of extreme poverty.

The UK’s decision to withdraw funding effectively abandons over 200 million of Africa’s poorest and most vulnerable people that it promised to support. Out of the 26 countries affected by these aid cuts, 24 are in Africa.

Reports say the cuts will mean exiting from supporting interventions against visceral leishmaniasis – a fatal disease that causes swelling of the spleen and liver, 50% of the global burden in East Africa. Similarly, loss of funding to tackle diseases like Guinea worm, blinding trachoma and elephantiasis could cause unnecessary setbacks for the poorest communities in Africa.

In a statement from the Forum for Former African Heads of State and Government, the former heads of state note that the impact “should be evaded through the collective efforts at national, sub-regional and continental levels”.

Full text of the statement from the Forum for Former African Heads of State and Government below:

We, the members of the Forum for Former African Heads of State and Government and other Institutions (Africa Forum), have come together to share our experiences and our moral authority for the benefit of the people of Africa.

Having continuously worked to support the implementation of the overall objective of the African Union (AU) and its policy-making organs, we are very disturbed by the persisting and devastating effect of the communicable, such as malaria and HIV/AIDS, the noncommunicable or chronic diseases like heart disease and cervical cancer, as well as the neglected tropical diseases like blinding trachoma, leprosy, elephantiasis, and Guinea worm disease, and last but not least the multiple epidemics and pandemics such as Ebola and COVID- 19 that have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives of our people each year.

We, at the Africa Forum, have recognized that the regions in Africa affected by the higher emergence and re-emergence of diseases have revealed problems essentially related to poverty, exclusion, and poor healthcare leading to exacerbate health problems and deteriorating peace and security desecration thus articulating the impact of the pandemics and diseases on governance, peace, and security on the continent.

We express our solidarity with and commitment to helping the AUC, governments and people of the sub-region to mobilize resources and all the required support to alleviate further suffering and to mitigate the impact of the communicable, non-communicable, neglected tropical diseases and the pandemics.

The Africa Forum feels strongly that such a ferocious calamity should be evaded through the collective efforts at national, sub-regional, and continental levels including necessary technical and expert support in the form of early warning by those who have the capacity to do so. We commend the determination by the African governments and institutions within the framework of the AU to cautiously minimize the health impact, as well as the social disruption and economic consequences of the pandemics and diseases.

It is significant to note the partnerships that the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) forged with UNDP and other local and international communities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic including public awareness of the pandemic and the importance of whole-of-society partnerships in curbing and recovering from the pandemic. In this regards the Forum would like to express its great satisfaction of the efforts deployed by the Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), which is a global partnership working to raise the visibility of NTDs –diseases that affect over 1.7 billion people on our planet, 600 million of whom in Africa. We also join their effort to prevent undermining years of hard-fought progress toward eliminating NTDs in African countries and risks the possibility of a resurgence in areas once free of these devastating diseases and encourage the international community to continue supporting their great intervention on the continent.

The Africa Forum feels strongly that Africa should rise to meet such situations of need and put together mechanisms that will provide rapid assistance and support when such unforeseeable circumstances and situations arise.

We further call upon the international community and humanitarian assistance agencies to mobilize the requisite aid resources and to strengthen the role and also call upon them to redouble their efforts in an attempt to avoid further loss of life. We urge them also to consider post-disease and pandemic reconstruction and development of the affected countries. The Africa Forum is prepared to work with all those of goodwill on the continent to mobilize support – particularly regarding to access to medical care and supplies, infrastructure, and quality health education as well as food and nutrition for the disease-stricken people living in Africa.

We will continue to work towards preventing or transforming conflicts in Africa because they are, alongside climatic adversities, responsible for the inequitable access to health care resources and creation of famine situations, not only in the conflict-affected countries but also in the neighboring countries which receive large numbers of refugees.

Issued by the Executive Secretariat of the Africa Forum, Pretoria, Republic of South Africa, June 2021.

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