Celebrating New Commitments at the Kigali Summit for Malaria and NTDs and a New Milestone in Canadian Engagement

By Tina Lines, Advocacy & Policy Officer & Dr. Alison Krentel, Chair of the Canadian Network for NTDs

Last month’s Kigali Summit, hosted by the Government of Rwanda, was a proud moment celebrating global efforts to address the global health threats of malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The last 10 years of action for NTDs have been guided by commitments made through the 2012 London Declaration. Working towards its ambitious targets, with more than one billion people treated each year for five consecutive years between 2015-2019 for NTDs that use preventive chemotherapy as a pathway towards elimination and control.  To date, 46 countries have successfully eliminated at least one NTD.  Notably there were only 15 reported cases of guinea worm in 2021, a reduction from more than 3.5 million cases in the 1980’s. Additionally, global efforts to eliminate trachoma, the leading infectious cause of blindness, have reduced the global burden by 91% since 2002. These are among the many achievements that have resulted from multi-year and multi-stakeholder efforts to address NTDs.

The Kigali Declaration builds on the successes of the London Declaration. The Kigali Declaration’s mandate is to generate the commitments, contributions and collaborations needed to reach the  WHO NTD Road Map 2030 goals. The drafting of the document was led by a partnership of endemic countries who called for endorsements to be associated with commitments (financial, political, technical or in-kind).  This approach brings to the foreground the collaborations needed to deliver targeted approaches to each NTD in a diversity of contexts. Some NTDs require access to donated medicines for their treatment and prevention, while others still require new treatment and diagnostics to reach elimination and control goals. At the heart of the efforts to address NTDs are the affected communities and individuals who live in conditions that put them at risk of NTDs, and live with the debilitating and often chronic sequelae of these diseases, despite their inalienable and equal right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health.

Highlights of the global commitments made at the Kigali Summit

The Kigali Summit overall raised more than US$4.4 billon, with US$2.2 billion in domestic funding commitments to end malaria and NTDs by 2030. Of this, the Kigali Declaration for NTDs secured substantial commitments by donor and endemic country governments, pharmaceutical companies, philanthropy, and others that include over US $1.4 billion in financial commitments, 18 billion tablets donated by 9 industry partners and US $562 million in other health products. Financial and political commitments were made by Canada, Germany, the UAE, the UK & the US, as well as by NTD endemic countries, the African Union and the WHO.

Philanthropic organizations made notable commitments including towards NTD research, new treatment and prevention, and strengthening institutions in Africa that deliver on NTD elimination. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced plans to set up a mentorship programme for African women working in neglected tropical diseases. This is in honour of the late Dr. Mwele Malecela, Director of the NTD Department at the World Health Organization in Geneva. She was global public health leader and a lifelong champion for women scientists in Africa.  Dr. Malecela led the WHO NTD 2030 Roadmap development leaving the community a legacy of the pathway towards the end of NTDs. Additionally, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched the Accelerate Resilient, Innovative, and Sustainable Elimination of NTDs (ARISE) program in collaboration with the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and ELMA Philanthropies.

Additional commitments came from The END Fund, who made $161M in commitments with partners through to 2030 and The Wellcome Trust who committed to £80 million worth of funding towards research on snakebite envenomation. The pharmaceutical company GSK extended its treatment donation for soil transmitted helminths (STH) to include pre-school children as well as to invest £1 billion in R&D over the next decade to tackle infectious diseases in LMICs, among other commitments. Novartis allocated US$100 million to advance the R&D of its NTD programme, while Pfizer extended its antibiotic donation program through to 2030, enabling continued trachoma elimination programs in more than 19 countries globally.

Canadian endorsement of the Kigali Declaration

For five years, the Canadian Network for NTDs has engaged with Canadian civil society and the Government of Canada to invest in and contribute towards the work being done globally and in Canada to end NTDs. Canada’s endorsement of the Kigali Declaration at the Summit last month is a critical milestone in Canada’s role within the global NTD movement.

Canada committed to advocate for the integration of NTDs in its global health investments and when providing primary health care services, highlighting the impact of these diseases on women and girls. The integration of NTDs into health services is a cost-effective and sustainable strategy that strengthens health care delivery and is encouraged by the WHO NTD 2030 Roadmap goals. Reducing the impact of NTDs on the health and wellbeing of women and girls is an area of work that Canada is well-positioned to contribute towards within the Feminist International Assistance Policy (or FIAP). Gender equality in accessing NTD prevention and treatment was also identified by the WHO as an issue requiring further investment, as it was greatly affected by the UK cuts to foreign aid in April of 2021. Canadian investment in sexual and reproductive health and rights can extend to include female genital schistosomiasis, a chronic infection affecting an estimated 56 million women and girls in Africa. Canadian efforts on nutrition can include deworming for pre-school and school aged children to contribute towards healthy learning and development. Finally, Canadian commitments to primary health care services can include preventive treatment for trachoma, an NTD that disproportionately affects women and girls.

Canadian civil society has also endorsed the Kigali Declaration and have made their commitments towards the WHO NTD 2030 Roadmap goals. Signatories include The Canadian Network for NTDs, Operation Eyesight, the Bruyere Research Institute, iCHORDs, NGDI-UBC and Effect Hope. Other organizations such as AMREF Canada and MSF Canada are supporting their headquarters’ Kigali Declaration endorsements, including MSF support for diagnosis and treatment for NTDs in humanitarian settings.

The Road Ahead

Achieving the WHO NTD Road Map 2030 goals will require collaboration, coordination and commitments. Having the Government of Canada stand ‘firmly behind the commitment to eliminate neglected tropical diseases by 2030’ is a big step forward in Canada and will help inform Canada’s global health engagement. The endorsement signals that Canada stands with the more than 1.7 billion people affected by NTDs globally and recognizes their right to health and human dignity. As the Canadian Network for NTDs, we congratulate Minister Sajjan and thank the Government of Canada for taking this step to endorse the Kigali Declaration. Canada, working closely with Canadian civils society, endemic country governments and global stakeholders, will contribute to achieving an end to NTDs to build a healthier, more equitable world.