A global initiative to fight neglected tropical diseases launched in London this week. The so-called London Declaration calls for the eradication of 10 neglected tropical diseases by 2020. Experts are calling it the largest coordinated effort ever undertaken to combat diseases that affect 1.4 billion people in the world’s poorest countries.
Organized by Bill Gates and united by a new World Health Organization (WHO) strategy, which outlines goals and objectives for the enhanced control, prevention, elimination and eradication of neglected tropical diseases, thirteen 13 pharmaceutical companies — Abbott, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eisai, Gilead, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, MSD, Novartis, Pfizer, Sanofi — have agreed to share their experimental compound libraries. They have also pledged to provide 14 billion treatments over the next decade.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $363 million. With funds from various other partners totaling $785 million, the project aims to erradicate many neglected tropical diseases, including blinding trachoma, leprosy, chagas disease, sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis, guinea worm, lymphatic filariasis, river blindness, schistosomiasis and yaws.
WHO director general, Margaret Chan, was encouraged by the show of unity during the launch at the Royal College of Physicians in London:
These ancient diseases are now being brought to their knees with stunning speed. With the boost to this momentum being made today, I am confident almost all of these diseases can be eliminated or controlled by the end of this decade.