WHO Director-General addresses unprecedented meeting on neglected tropical diseases

Dr Margaret Chan
Director-General of the World Health Organization

Statement at a meeting on Uniting to combat neglected tropical diseases: ending the neglect and reaching 2020 goals
London, United Kingdom

30 January 2012

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today’s event sends a strong message of encouragement.

At a time of severe financial constraints, it is still possible to set ambitious targets for diseases, secure unprecedented commitments, and accelerate action to meet those targets.

This message is all the more heartening given the people who will benefit. The bottom billion. The poorest of the poor. People with little visibility and even less political voice.

For decades, WHO has been the champion of these people, steadily working to give them the vision of a better life. This leadership, supported by research, partners, and industry donations, has changed the face of NTDs.

Once considered inevitable companions of poverty, many NTDs are now being brought to their knees, with stunning speed.

Last week, WHO issued a roadmap for accelerating work to overcome these diseases. The targets for implementation are ambitious yet feasible, based on the best science available, but also on impressive results under some of the most challenging conditions in the world.

With the boost to this momentum being made today, I am confident almost all of these ancient diseases can be eliminated or controlled by the end of this decade.

The strategies set out in the WHO roadmap are tested and proven to be effective. Let me assure you: WHO knows how to deliver on these commitments in ways that bring results.

The roadmap follows two overarching approaches being covered today.

That is, using what exists while maximizing the impact through smart programme management. And innovation to improve or repurpose existing tools and develop better ones.

We know that programmes for disease elimination or eradication that stress innovation have the best chance of success. This is what we all want: success in relieving the misery of more than a billion people.

The payback will be enormous.

Thank you.