Abu Dhabi: Landmarks across the UAE lit up on Monday in support of the fourth World Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Day, an annual moment that aims to galvanise the global community in support of ending neglected tropical diseases.
NTDs are a band of debilitating diseases that affect about 1.7 billion people worldwide.
Seventeen buildings and structures across Abu Dhabi and Dubai lit up in a wave of orange and purple – the official colours of World NTD Day – to help raise awareness of the cause, and to reaffirm the UAE’s commitment to stamping out these devastating diseases.
The landmarks included the Abu Dhabi Municipality, Abu Dhabi Global Market, Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company headquarters, Al Ain Municipality, Al Ain Tower, Dubai Frame, Emirates Palace, Etihad Arena, Global Village Dubai, Khalifa University, Marina Mall Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Bin Rashid Library, Mubadala headquarters, Shams Tower in Yas Marina Circuit, Sheikh Zayed Bridge, and the W Abu Dhabi.
NTDs are a group of communicable diseases that are preventable and treatable, yet continue to affect one in five people worldwide, including one billion children. There are currently 20 diseases and disease groups defined as NTDs by the World Health Organisation (WHO), including river blindness (onchocerciasis), leprosy, elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis), Guinea worm disease and rabies.
The conditions cause immeasurable suffering - they can blind, debilitate, disfigure and can be fatal. By most commonly affecting vulnerable and marginalised populations, NTDs create cycles of poverty and cost developing nations billions of dollars each year. Nearly 40 per cent of the global NTD burden is shouldered by Africa.
Advocacy efforts such as World NTD Day are key in ensuring continued momentum towards the global goal of elimination, as outlined in the WHO’s 2030 roadmap on NTDs. World NTD Day was launched in 2019 by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, and was formally recognised by the WHO in 2020 through an effort championed by the UAE and other committed partners.
In commemoration of the day, Yas Marina Circuit also hosted the ‘Last Mile Walk or Ride’ to end NTDs, in partnership with the Reach Campaign, a UAE-led initiative seeking to raise funds in support of eliminating two neglected tropical diseases: river blindness and lymphatic filariasis. The event saw more than 900 participants take to the Abu Dhabi circuit to show their support for the day, and to help raise awareness of NTDs and the vulnerable communities affected by them.
Participants were encouraged to walk or ride a ‘last mile’, a phrase that has been adopted by the global health sector to refer to those populations hardest to reach with services. These remote and rural communities are often impoverished, with little access to infrastructure, clean water, and sanitation, and represent the last and hardest mile of disease elimination.
All proceeds from the event will go to benefit the Reaching the Last Mile Fund (RLMF), which aims to eliminate river blindness and lymphatic filariasis in sub-Saharan Africa. Established in 2017 by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, and supported by organisations including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, ELMA Philanthropies and the Helmsley Charitable Trust, RLMF is a 10-year, US$100m (Dh367 million) initiative hosted by the END Fund, the leading philanthropic vehicle dedicated to ending NTDs.