Lighting up the world to end the neglect of neglected tropical diseases

January 30, 2021, marked the second annual World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day, highlighting the global community’s commitment to ending neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that cause immeasurable suffering among the world’s most marginalized communities.

On World NTD Day people, organizations and countries all over the world, including Canada, came together to end the neglect of neglected tropical diseases. Landmarks, stadiums, and iconic buildings around the globe were illuminated in a global display of unity to combat NTDs. The CN Tower and the Calgary Tower were two of 65 landmarks representing the 26 nations who joined us in amplifying the message of World NTD Day worldwide. We were so inspired to see landmarks around the world unite around the message: It’s time to beat NTDs.

Our activities also included rallying Canadians around the goal of beating NTDs within this decade. World NTD Day was featured on Global News in Toronto, CTV News in Calgary and across their respective websites. The Vancouver Sun also featured an op-ed on leprosy for World NTD Day. It was fantastic to see so many Canadians on social media highlighting the need to continue to work towards ending the neglect of NTDs.

The Canadian NGO community also got in behind World NTD Day sharing news, activities and resources on NTDs. Check out Nutrition International’s document on de-worming, Orbis Canada’s two articles on World NTD Day and their work with trachoma, Seva Canada’s video on trachoma and The Public Health Insight podcasts highlighting Canada’s working on NTDs in episode 50 and episode 51.

The Canadian government also supported action on NTDs at the launch of the World Health Organization’s new road map for NTDs 2021-2030. Karina Gould, Canada’s Minister for International Development spoke at the event, encouraging greater integration of gender equality in all our actions to help us achieve sustainable results, build stronger health systems and move toward universal health care for all.

What we said on World NTD Day:

“Canadians should care about NTDs because the tools to end the neglect already exist. Interventions around NTDs have proven to be one of the best buys in global health. We should care about NTDs because we need to be sure that efforts to fight COVID-19 do not turn the clock back on the progress made on NTDs. And we should also care because Canadians are making a difference fighting NTDs in different parts of the world – but these efforts should be integrated for maximum impact with a global health strategy for Canada.”

Alison Krentel, assistant professor, School of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Ottawa, a scientist at Bruyère Research Institute, Honorary Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, founding member of the Canadian Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases.

“A key principle of public health is to “leave no-one behind” – equity. The COVID crisis has evolved from an acute medical emergency to a chronic “maintenance” phase; health services in Canada and globally need to adapt to life with another globally endemic infection. Policy-makers must adapt and provide services which do not create deeper social inequalities. This includes access to treatment, as well as vaccines.”

David Molyneux, professor emeritus, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (UK), member of WHO’s Expert Panel on Parasitic Diseases and the International Task Force for Disease Eradication of the Carter Center. 

World NTD Day was a fantastic way to kick-off a year of action on NTDs. We’re looking forward to keeping NTDs on the agenda for 2021 and celebrating Canadian efforts and activities to beat NTDs!