Katey Einterz Owen
Director, Neglected Tropical Diseases, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Director, Malaria, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
A world free of malaria and NTDs is possible. Investing now in the resources and approaches needed to end these diseases will save millions of lives and protect against future pandemics.
Over the next six months, the global community has two historic opportunities to recommit to ending malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)—by mobilising at least USD 18 billion to replenish the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for its 2024-2026 programs and by supporting the Kigali Declaration on NTDs to deliver the targets set in the World Health Organization’s NTD Roadmap (2021-2030).
Supporting national malaria and NTD programs
Over two decades, enormous strides have been made against these unforgiving, preventable diseases. Global investments through the Global Fund helped scale up innovative life-saving malaria interventions and contributed to saving over 10 million lives from malaria. The London Declaration on NTDs, signed in 2012 by governments, pharmaceutical companies, endemic countries, global health organisations and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, spurred an almost doubling of medicine donations by the pharmaceutical industry – and reached over a billion people each year between 2017 and 2019.
Yet these diseases continue to take lives and put billions of people at risk— and COVID-19 only makes continued progress harder.
But we can end malaria and NTDs and keep us safer from future disease threats. To do this, we need to support the engines that fuel progress against these diseases, national malaria and NTD programs. Boosting global and country investments in these programs and better integrating them into national health systems can dramatically increase their ability to save and improve lives.
Community-based disease monitoring and tracking
With the goal of ending malaria and NTDs, the Gates Foundation co-invests and partners across malaria and NTD programs in endemic-countries, pharmaceutical companies and product development partnerships, research institutes and global and local NGOs. One focus is on optimising the delivery of life-saving interventions at the community level and increasing the use of digitised data systems for real-time monitoring.
Community health workers are at the heart of national malaria and NTD programs, providing a continuum of integrated primary health care services for millions of people—particularly in hard-to-reach areas. Trust between these frontline workers and the communities they serve also provides a vital foundation for adapting services in response to emerging health needs, such as COVID-19.
Community health workers are at the heart of national malaria and NTD programs, providing a continuum of integrated primary health care services for millions of people
Initiatives including Visualize No More Malaria, the Lymphatic Filariasis Campaign Digitization in India and genetic sequencing of mosquitoes and parasites are helping to improve health coverage and access by providing decision makers with real-time insights to transform delivery and care.
Digitised community-based monitoring is also a critical early warning system for identifying and responding to new health threats—amplifying the impact of investments in malaria and NTDs which can help prevent future pandemics.
Increased financial and political commitments
We are already seeing examples of the commitments and approaches needed to strengthen health care provided by malaria and NTD programs which are helping to drive lasting progress.
A total of 25 sub-Saharan African countries have launched local Zero Malaria Starts with Me campaigns and End Malaria Councils to mobilise country resources and action, and the African Union and Uniting to Combat NTDs recently signed an agreement to end NTDs by 2030. Increased integration of NTDs into national health strategy frameworks and the African Leaders Malaria Alliance scorecard are serving as critical accountability mechanisms.
To support this stepped-up leadership, we need global leaders to join in solidarity and with increased funding to deliver a safer, equitable world free of malaria, NTDs and emerging diseases.