Expo NTD Day-1643455859786
Expo 2020 Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: In a show of global solidarity, 100 landmarks in 32 countries – including Expo 2020 Dubai – will light up in unity on Sunday to mark the third annual World NTD (neglected tropical diseases) Day, a world movement aimed at galvanising the global health community and engaging the public to end NTDs.

Some of the global landmarks include Sheikh Zayed Bridge in Abu Dhabi, The Bell Tower in Perth, Australia; Tokyo Tower, Great Wall of China, Kuala Lumpur Tower, The Rome Colosseum, Jet d’ Eau, Niagara Falls, CN Tower, Carter Presidential Library, and Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Sony Center in Berlin, Germany Image Credit: Supplied

UAE’s contribution

World NTD Day was officially recognised by the WHO in May 2021. The UAE helmed diplomatic efforts to obtain official recognition of the day, and several WHO Member States were instrumental in building consensus to support it. The decision, proposed by the UAE alongside Oman and Brazil, was adopted unanimously.

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, continues to play a leading role in building partnerships and supporting World NTD Day through the Reaching the Last Mile Initiative (RLM), a portfolio of global health programmes focused on accelerating progress towards disease elimination.

Nassar Al Mubarak, senior director at the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi, said: “World NTD Day represents an important catalyst to translate awareness into action – it is not only crucial for the public to know more about these diseases, but also for donors, endemic countries and other stakeholders to collaborate to bring an end to NTDs in affected countries. Over the past few decades, incredible progress has been made towards ending NTDs; however, one in five people in the most vulnerable communities around the world are still affected by these preventable and treatable diseases.”

He added: “We are pleased to see World NTD Day providing a platform for raising awareness through the new ‘100% Committed Campaign’ led by Uniting to Combat NTDs and efforts such as the light-up activation. We hope that this movement continues to gain traction and spark new partnerships and commitments necessary to beat NTDs for good and for all.”

Organisers said a special focus was placed on notable landmarks in endemic countries including Bangladesh, Brazil, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, the Philippines, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, and Togo.

There will also be several monuments, universities and notable buildings lighting up in Abu Dhabi, where World NTD Day was originally announced in 2019. The 100 ‘light ups’ aim to shine a light on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), as World NTD Day supports the goal of the World Health Organization (WHO) to eliminate at least one NTD from 100 endemic countries by 2030.

What are NTDs?
NTDs are a group of communicable diseases that are preventable and treatable, yet continue to affect more than 1.7 billion people worldwide, including 1 billion children. There are currently 20 diseases and disease groups defined as NTDs including river blindness (onchocerciasis), leprosy, elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis), Guinea worm disease, rabies and intestinal worms (soil-transmitted helminths). NTDs cause immeasurable suffering – they debilitate, disfigure and can be fatal. By most commonly affecting some of the most vulnerable people in the world – who often live in remote communities – NTDs create cycles of poverty and cost developing nations billions of dollars every year.

Galvanising the community

World NTD Day is a global movement that aims to galvanize the global health community and engage the public in the urgent effort to end NTDs. This year ‘Uniting to Combat NTDs’ used World NTD Day to launch the ‘100% Committed Movement, engaged in securing political and financial commitments in support of the Kigali Declaration on NTDs. The Kigali Declaration, a high-level political declaration, provides the opportunity to mobilise the political will, community commitment, resources and action needed to end unnecessary suffering from NTDs.

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Thoko Pooley, executive director of Uniting to Combat NTDs, said: “Building on the success of the London Declaration on NTDs, and recognising the changing global landscape, we are using World NTD Day 2022 as a catalyst for action. We are launching the 100% Committed campaign, a global movement to secure increased resources for neglected tropical diseases, and crucially to facilitate political leadership and ownership of NTD programmes from affected countries, through endorsements and signatories behind the new Kigali Declaration on NTDs.”