H.E Dr Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete former President of the United Republic of Tanzania
H.E Abdulwahab Al Badr, Director General of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development
Dear partners, ladies and gentlemen
On behalf of the WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, I would like to thank our wonderful hosts, the Kuwait Fund, for inviting us here to beautiful Kuwait City and for convening this important meeting.
Let me start by expressing my deep sadness and sorrow at the passing of my friend and colleague Dr Mahmoud Fikri who was instrumental in making this event here happen as it is jointly organized by the Africa and Eastern Mediterranean Region Offices of WHO. My deepest sympathy to his family and the EMRO region. He will be greatly missed.
The Kuwait Fund has been a long-standing leader in the fight against NTDs. You were with us before and when we formed APOC, and you were with us when we formed ESPEN. We anticipate that we will be together when we all celebrate the end of the 5 PC NTDs from the African continent in a few years.
I remember that it was in Kuwait that the historic decision that the African Programme for Onchocerciasis had succeeded in Onchocerciasis Control, and that we would set the ambition towards elimination focus broadly on the PCT NTDs was taken. It is thus very fitting that our first engagement in getting support for ESPEN from the Gulf States should be in Kuwait at the invitation of the Kuwait Fund.
. Thank you for convening current – and what we hope will be new – partners for ESPEN in the fight against NTDs.
Thank you to all our valuable ESPEN partners, for your support to this fight to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable people from these ancient diseases and for joining us here on this occasion.
Ladies and gentlemen, the elimination of NTDs from Africa requires global commitment, essential medicines, financial resources, technical guidance and above all political leadership.
Many of the pieces of this puzzle have been assembled: The world has convened behind a global goal of the January 2012 London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases to control and eliminate 10 NTDs by 2020. Public and private sector resources and partners have been mobilized.
And in a critical move to rally political leadership and technical capacity in each endemic country, the Director General of the World Health Organization launched ESPEN in 2016.
ESPEN is the Expanded Special Project for the Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases, built on a spirit of partnership between endemic country governments, WHO and all NTD partners and donors, public and private sectors, hosted and managed by the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa.
Since it is nested within WHO, ESPEN is in the best position to share technical expertise to guide countries to beat NTDs, taking advantage of WHO’s presence in the 47 countries of the African region and several in the EMRO Region.
Over the next two days, as we collectively explore out how to resource ESPEN, we will work out how to reach the last mile with essential prevention tools and new partnerships. By financing ESPEN, we will know how best to reach our NTD targets on the African continent. I look forward to engaging on this reflection and discussion with you.
Ladies and gentlemen, in just one year, ESPEN’s remarkable achievements demonstrate its excellent value for money by bringing better health to millions of people for just 50 cents per person per year.
ESPEN is making sure that valuable donated the drugs reach and are used by the people that need them: we succeeded in recovering 132 million tablets that had been misplaced in national systems through supply chain analysis in seven countries. They can now be used to treat people resulting in huge savings.
ESPEN makes sure that NTD programmes and their partners have the data and to make decisions and take action they need: We developed Africa’s first baseline endemicity atlas of the 5 PC-NTDs, and recently launched an NTD portal where data is being shared among 41 countries for evidence-based decision-making.
Over this year, we have learned that our elimination goals can be reached only if we follow three courses of action.
Firstly, political commitment is critical for achieving success, which will only come when countries are in the driving seat. We work hard with the leadership of endemic countries to achieve this.
Secondly, we need to continue to provide guidance and technical insight to policymakers and programme managers in countries who are tackling the NTDs in their countries.
And the final course of action is to continue to encourage the community of partners – including donors, pharmaceutical companies, technical agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), philanthropists and academia – to maintain and increase their commitments to overcoming NTDs.
In closing, I would like to say how very encouraged and inspired I am by the work ESPEN and our partners are doing to advance our collective elimination agenda. We are well on our way to making history. I am sure that together we will succeed in building a healthier, more productive and prosperous Africa. I look forward to continuing this journey, with the partnerships that we hope to build following this meeting, InshAllah, being added to our existing partners.