Several global charities at the 2023 Reaching the Last Mile (RLM) Forum at COP28 have collaboratively pledged to provide $777m to combat neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

The forum took place on 3 December, which also marked the first ‘Health Day’ during COP28 in the UAE.

The global initiative was driven by UAE President Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-chair Bill Gates, among other dignitaries and officials.

The effort aims to help control, eliminate and eradicate NTDs, which are projected to even worsen due to the climate change and rising temperatures.

It is also in line with the goals mentioned under the World Health Organization’s roadmap which targets to eliminate a minimum of one NTD from at least 100 countries by 2030.

Another target under the WHO roadmap is to reduce the number of people requiring treatment for NTDs by 90%.

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The financial commitments made by the organisations will be used for carrying out various finance essential programmes and treatments, strengthening frontline health systems and workforces along with supporting new research and innovations.

WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “This commitment is a significant stride towards eradicating, eliminating, and controlling NTDs, aligning seamlessly with the 2021-2030 NTD roadmap.

“The collaborative efforts of countries and global donors exemplify an unwavering dedication to improving the lives of the 1.6 billion people affected by these diseases.”

During the forum, the RLM, joined by the Gates Foundation and other global partners, announced the Reaching the Last Mile Fund’s (RLMF) expansion from $100m to $500m.

This expansion will help in increasing the global reach of the fund from initial seven nations to a total of 39 countries across Africa and Yemen.

It will focus on eradicating two NTDs, including lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis (river blindness), from African continent.

Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed Al Nahyan said: “With endemic countries leading the way, the RLMF represents a historic opportunity to free communities across Africa from the threat of two NTDs, and in partnership unlock potential for a healthier world.”