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. More than 1 in 5 people worldwide are affected by NTDs.
people are at risk for river blindness worldwide, 99% of them in Africa
people around the world require preventative chemotherapy for LF
US $ 1
the estimated annual cost caused by impairment from LF
NTDs affect the poorest of poor
NTDs are responsible for 170,000 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 Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation , The Helmsley Charitable Trust, 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.
In 2019, RLMF programs provided:
- 15.1 million treatments worth $62 million.
- Training to more than 358,883 health workers.
- 438 surgeries to people suffering from advanced stages of elephantiasis.
Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, RLMF programs provided:
- 11.16 million treatments
- Training to more than 174,211 health workers.
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 Africa.
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 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 Al Nahyan,
President of the UAE