RWANDA –Commonwealth Heads of Government and leaders from around the world are set to meet in Rwanda to make bold commitments toward ending malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

The high-level Summit is to serve as a landmark moment to renew commitments and call for more significant investments to end malaria and NTDs, a group of 20 diseases, most commonly affecting some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

During the Summit, Heads of Government, communities, business leaders, and philanthropists are anticipated to highlight how ending malaria and NTDs can “unlock the potential” for countries to build a safer and healthier world.

Through high-level panels on integration, innovation, and health financing, the Summit is anticipated to outline how investment towards ending these diseases will save more lives, improve equity, drive economic growth, and build resilient health systems capable of detecting and responding to current and emerging diseases.

The global NTD community is calling on affected countries to prioritize the ending of NTDs by endorsing the Kigali Declaration on NTDs.

To date, 46 countries have eliminated at least one NTD, and 600 million people no longer require treatment.

The high-level declaration will build on previous success and provide the opportunity to mobilize the political will, community commitment, resources and action needed to end NTDs.

Professor Claude Mambo Muvunyi, Director General, Rwanda Biomedical Center said: “It is wonderful to see so many leaders and sectors come together in Kigali today to make high-level commitments to reinvigorate action towards malaria and neglected tropical diseases.

Incredible progress over the last two decades proves that ending Malaria and NTDs is a worthy and achievable goal. We must all play our part in ending undue suffering, so we can improve the health of nations worldwide, unlock stronger economic growth and deliver a better future for all.”

Milestones in malaria and NTDs fight

Malaria and NTDs affect the lives of billions, and incredible progress made over the last two decades proves that ending these diseases is possible.

To date, 46 countries have eliminated at least one NTD, and 600 million people no longer require treatment.

Cases of some diseases that have plagued humanity for centuries, such as sleeping sickness and Guinea worm disease are at an all-time low, and 600 million people no longer require treatment for NTDs.

That said, services for NTDs and malaria were hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, threatening to unravel years of progress. In 2020 for instance, 627,000 lives were lost to malaria – the highest in nearly a decade.

As the press release pinpoints, since 2000, country leadership and global partnership have saved 10.6 million lives from malaria and prevented 1.7 billion cases.

Even more, 23 countries have achieved three consecutive years of zero malaria cases since 2000, with another 25 having the potential to become malaria-free in the next five years.

So far, 46 countries have eliminated at least one NTD, with Rwanda eliminating Human African Trypanosomiasis, commonly known as sleeping sickness, earlier this year.

This is a critical year in the fight against malaria, following the stalling of progress in recent years.

Plateauing of funding, rapid population growth and widespread insecticide resistance have played a part, with disruptions of essential services and supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic putting further strain on the fight against malaria.

Executive Director of Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases, Thoko Elphick-Pooley said: “The long-awaited Kigali Summit on Malaria and NTDs presents a massive opportunity to improve the lives of billions.

“Now is the moment to be 100% committed to end malaria and NTDs, to endorse the Kigali Declaration, and to leverage these investments to protect against future threats too.”

Commitments made by leaders at the Kigali Summit and investing funds totaling at least US$18 billion at the Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment in the United States this September.

The investment would enable countries and partners to re-energize the fight against malaria, strengthen health systems, and invest in the research and innovations needed to end malaria for good, the statement reads.

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