The Reach Campaign has revealed that its ’50 Days to Transform 5 Million Lives’ initiative has generated enough funds and commitments to transform the lives of 5 million people at risk of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
Made possible by the generosity of individuals and corporate partners, the campaign received several million dirhams in donations, which will provide preventative treatment and support in accelerating progress towards the elimination of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis for millions of people living in some of the most disadvantaged communities.
The campaign sought to continue a journey of philanthropy that started with the UAE’s Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and his vision for the future of this country.
The UAE has taken significant steps to fight NTDs for over 30 years, starting with a personal donation in 1990 from the Founding Father of US $5.77 million to The Carter Center’s efforts to eradicate the NTD Guinea Worm disease.
The UAE’s strategy for disease elimination is to help keep preventable diseases at the top of the political agenda, maintain progress made so far, raise funding levels, and work closely with global partners and multilateral initiatives to increase impact.
Over the past 10 years, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi has committed over US $350 million to improving health outcomes across the world. The UAE’s work in global health provides treatment and preventative care in communities that lack access to quality health services, with a specific focus on reaching the last mile of disease elimination.
The 50-day initiative brought together a range of the UAE’s leading companies and organizations in efforts to raise money and awareness for NTDs during the 50-day countdown to the UAE’s Golden Jubilee celebrations through an array of activations, promotions, and events.
The funds and commitments generated since the campaign launched on 14 October, will be put towards the Reaching the Last Mile Fund (RLMF), which offers a proof of concept for the elimination of the two diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa. Administered by the END Fund, RLMF is a 10-year, $100 million USD initiative launched in 2017 by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and several supporters including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The ELMA Philanthropies.
On 8 December it was officially announced that Niger completed the necessary evaluations in line with guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) to certify the elimination of river blindness. Niger is preparing the requisite paperwork for WHO verification and pending certification, Niger is now poised to be the first country in Africa to declare it has eliminated the NTD. An event was held in the Niger Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai to celebrate this progress, with attendees including Her Excellency Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General, Expo 2020 Dubai Bureau; Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and His Excellency Ambassador Agada Garba, Ambassador of the Republic of Niger to the United Arab Emirates.
RLMF delivers preventative treatment for NTDs and focuses on ways to accelerate progress towards elimination – from investing in disease mapping efforts, to supporting advanced lab facilities and cross-border collaborations.
Tala Al Ramahi, Acting Managing Director for The Reach Campaign, said: “We are proud of the support from our community during the 50-day campaign, which demonstrated the values of the UAE’s founding father, His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, of humanitarianism and of lending a helping hand to those in need. The UAE's values are centered on creating a healthier and more dignified life for everyone, regardless of where they live or come from, and we are humbled that the Reach Campaign was able to deliver on the commitment made when we first launched our campaign.
“We sincerely thank every participant who has engaged with the campaign and made it possible to transform the lives of millions of people whether through financial contributions, partner activations, or even time volunteered by individuals to raise awareness of the campaign. This initiative was a huge milestone for the Reach Campaign, and while we are honored by its success, there is still much work that needs to be done in the fight against NTDs. We will continue to build on this initiative’s success to realize our leadership's and partners' collective goal of the complete elimination of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis.”
Funds from the campaign aim to help people like Lelamo Mukhtar Turgemu who lives in Sankura, Ethiopia with his wife and ten children. Prior to experiencing the advanced symptoms of lymphatic filariasis, Lelamo was a prosperous farmer and landowner who worked diligently to provide for his family. As his condition deteriorated, Lelamo was unable to work and had no other choice than to sell his land. Like many communities affected by NTDs, his family became trapped in a cycle of poverty. Through the work and efforts of the Reach Campaign, RLMF and the END Fund, the right treatment can be provided to those in need, protecting vulnerable communities from preventable NTDs.
The Reach Campaign also utilizes World NTD Day, which falls annually on January 30, to galvanize the global community behind the common goal of ending NTDs. Officially recognized by the World Health Organization, the day mobilises global civil society advocates, community leaders, global health experts, and policymakers to challenge the widespread diseases.