OFID supports World Health Organization’s neglected tropical disease elimination initiative

14.05.2018 | E21/2018  

OFID Director-General Suleiman J Al-Herbish (center) signed a US$1m grant agreement
with Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa (fourth from left).

Vienna, Austria, May 14, 2018. OFID – the OPEC Fund for International Development – has signed a US$1 million grant agreement with the World Health Organization (WHO) for an initiative aimed at eliminating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in seven African countries. The agreement was signed by Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, and Suleiman J Al-Herbish, OFID Director-General.

The Expanded Special Project for Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ESPEN) – a public-private partnership between WHO, African countries and NTD partners – is ramping up activities to reduce the incidence of five of the most prevalent diseases: Onchocerciasis (River Blindness); Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia); Trachoma; Lymphatic Filariaisis (Elephantiasis) and Soil-transmitted Helminths. At present, around 600 million people are at risk of contracting these diseases that have associated severe physical, financial and psychological consequences.

At the signing ceremony, Al-Herbish outlined OFID’s long-standing partnership with WHO, which dates back to 1979 with a grant that supported an Onchocerciasis control program. Additional grants helped fund projects aimed at combating the AIDS pandemic, NTDs and other diseases, as well as boosting access to health services. Al-Herbish emphasized that the majority of this aid was directed to low-income African countries. He said OFID supported the view that NTDs require a comprehensive response as they were both “drivers and outcomes of poverty.” Al-Herbish commended WHO for its leading role in combating NTDs in Africa and expressed his appreciation for the “excellent cooperation” between the two institutions.

Dr Moeti thanked the Director-General for OFID’s support, which was vital in helping WHO to carry out its work. This support represented not just a valuable financial contribution but it also encouraged other development finance institutions to join the coalition of partners helping to combat NTDs. It also will help African leaders and decision-makers to focus on health priorities.

The overall objective of ESPEN is to ensure that targeted countries and their national NTD programs have the resources needed to reduce the disease burden. This can be done by increasing coverage in at-risk areas and boosting the effectiveness of in-country NTD programs; supporting countries in conducting impact assessments and surveillance activities; capacity building to foster data collection and sharing; and improving the utilization of donated medicines and better supply chain management.