Paving the way to end two devastating neglected tropical diseases: River blindness and lymphatic filariasis

The Reaching the Last Mile Fund (RLMF) is paving the way to end two devastating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) – river blindness and lymphatic filariasis (LF).

While NTDs are rare in wealthy countries, they pose an ever-present threat in poor countries, where people often suffer from more than one NTD at once. These countries face poor access to clean water, limited healthcare services and environmental changes due to climate change – challenges that exacerbate the spread of those diseases while also keeping communities trapped in poverty.

198

million

people are at risk for river blindness worldwide, 99% of them in Africa

856

million

people around the world require preventative chemotherapy for LF

US$ 1

billion

the estimated annual cost caused by impairment from LF

NTDs affect the poorest of poor

NTDs are responsible for thousands of preventable deaths each year and cause impairments that perpetuate the cycle of poverty by keeping millions of adults out of work and children out of school.

While effective treatment methods are available, communities threatened by NTDs are often difficult to reach with preventative medicine. At the same time, limited access to basic clinical care means that NTD symptoms can go untreated, causing devastating disabilities, such as blindness and disfigurement.

 

The Reaching the Last Mile Fund (RLMF)

Administered by the END Fund, RLMF is a 10-year, US$ 100 million fund launched in 2017 by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Department for International Development (DFID), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and The ELMA Philanthropies.

A unique approach to disease elimination

The Fund focuses on elimination of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis in seven countries. When successful, it will be a pioneer in providing a proof of concept for eliminating these diseases in Africa.

Working in partnership with local governments and the WHO, the RLMF supports delivery of mass drug administration (MDA), working with pharmaceutical companies to provide the drugs for prevention and treatment free of charge. The Fund also supports disease elimination mapping, training for lab technicians, and other technical assistance and capacity building efforts.

 

About river blindness

Onchocerciasis, or river blindness, is an eye and skin disease caused by a parasitic worm and transmitted through exposure to repeated bites from infected blackflies. The parasitic disease occurs mainly in tropical areas, with more than 99% of infected people living in 31 African countries.

About lymphatic filariasis

Lymphatic filariasis (LF) causes painful and visible disfigurations, including grossly enlarged limbs, and can lead to permanent disability. Infection occurs when filarial parasites are transmitted to humans through mosquitoes. It is usually acquired in childhood, causing hidden damage to the lymphatic system. LF can be eliminated by stopping the spread of infection through preventive chemotherapy.

“The UAE, under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, continues to provide regional and international support for humanitarian, developmental and health initiatives that target countries and communities in need. The launch of this Fund is part of international efforts to rid the world of two debilitating and preventable diseases.”

- His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi