33 former African Presidents appeal UK’s withdrawal of neglected tropical disease funding  

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a global success story, with 43 countries having eliminated an NTD. However, the UK government has decided to withdraw £150 million in funding to tackle these diseases – funding that would have delivered over 250 million treatments this year alone. In response, 33 former heads of state have called upon the “international community and humanitarian assistance agencies to mobilize the requisite aid resources in an attempt to avoid further loss of life.”

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.

The cuts will mean exiting from supporting interventions against visceral leishmaniasis – a fatal disease which causes swelling of the spleen and liver, 50% of the global burden of which is 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”.

As African countries continue to manage the pandemic, it is essential that national governments can continue work with partners such as the UK to protect and support vulnerable people on the continent. The Africa Forum is prepared to work collaboratively “to mobilize support, particularly regarding to access to medical care and supplies, infrastructure, and quality health education as well as food and nutrition for those living in Africa”.

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