ABU DHABI/ WAM
The UAE is steadfast in its global drive to end neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), which affect more than 1.6 billion people globally, at a rate of one in five people. Inspired by the country’s humanitarian principles of helping underprivileged countries and promoting health and well-being worldwide, this drive includes various multilateral efforts and initiatives.
Just a few days ago, the UAE joined the world in celebrating World NTD Day, held annually on 30th January, established in 2019 by a coalition of partners, including the UAE, and announced at the 2019 Reaching the Last Mile Forum in Abu Dhabi. The day was formally recognised by the WHO in 2021, through an effort championed by the UAE and other partners
The UAE boasts a legacy spanning over 30 years in combatting NTDs. In 1990, the UAE’s Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, made a substantial personal donation to The Carter Centre’s efforts to eradicate the NTD Guinea Worm disease. Sheikh Zayed’s donation began a decades-long commitment by Abu Dhabi’s ruling family to disease eradication and, specifically, ending NTDs.
This longstanding and ongoing partnership with the Carter Centre has helped prevent more than 80 million cases of Guinea worm disease. Only 13 cases were reported globally in 2023, and the condition is on track to be on the second human disease in history to be eradicated.
At the Reaching the Last Mile Forum at COP28 in December, the UAE joined African leaders and global partners in pledging over US$777 million towards combating NTDs. This moment also saw the expansion of the Reaching the Last Mile Fund (RLMF), a multi-donor fund initially launched in 2017 by President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan from US$100m to a target US$500m, with the ambitious goal of eliminating lymphatic filariasis and river blindness from the entire continent of Africa.
This goal builds on the pioneering success of the fund to date, extending the UAE’s commitment to ending NTDs. RLMF has helped pave the way for the elimination of the diseases; river blindness (also known as onchocerciasis) and lymphatic filariasis in sub-Saharan Africa, by building on past successes, accelerating ongoing efforts, and building capacity in endemic countries.
Since 2017, RLMF has provided over 100 million treatments and trained 1.3 million health workers, in close partnership with endemic countries. It also played a part in Niger’s journey to eliminate the transmission of river blindness, an achievement once thought to be scientifically impossible in Africa, and has supported Senegal in nearing the same milestone.
Reaching the Last Mile (RLM) is a portfolio of global health programs working towards disease elimination that is driven by the philanthropy of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed. RLM provides treatment and preventative care in communities that lack access to quality health services, with a specific focus on reaching the last mile of disease elimination.
The UAE’s commitment to disease elimination strives to keep preventable diseases at the top of the political agenda, maintain progress made so far, raise funding levels, and work closely with global partners and multilateral initiatives to increase impact.
This 2024 campaign is held under the theme ‘Unite. Act. Eliminate’. It is a moment to champion awareness of NTDs and the opportunity to end them, and to celebrate the UAE’s longstanding leadership in global health and its legacy of multilateral and intergovernmental partnership.