A look back over 2017
The past year has been eventful for global health. International and national organisations have joined forces, people worked to help one another, and lives have been turned around. FAIRMED is also a part of this movement.
Founding of the Swiss Alliance against NTDs
Twelve Swiss organisations, also including FAIRMED, joined forces in the fight against Neglected Tropical Diseases. This alliance of Swiss representatives from the areas of research, civil society and the pharmaceutical industry has a great deal of potential. These kinds of collaborations enable a better use of synergies and the pooling of resources, with the overarching aim of working together to combat neglected tropical diseases such as leprosy and Buruli ulcer. The Swiss Alliance against NTDs (SANDT) had officially announced the alliance during the NTD Summit in the spring.
India kicks off new awareness campaign against leprosy
60 percent of all leprosy sufferers worldwide live in India. Despite years-long campaigns aimed at leprosy eradication from the Indian government, more than 127,000 new leprosy cases are diagnosed every year. On 2 February, the national awareness-raising campaign from the National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) was launched against this backdrop. Through a range of measures as well as stronger public participation, the objective is to facilitate earlier diagnosis and treatment, and ultimately to halt the spread of the disease.
Key topic: Buruli ulcer.
As part of a WHO meeting, representatives from research institutions, non-governmental organisations and health departments came together in March to discuss the ongoing Global Buruli Ulcer Initiative. Buruli ulcer belongs to the group of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), alongside other skin diseases such as leprosy or yaws. The over 150 participants from 23 countries spent three days exchanging views on control, research and progress in the fight against the so-called ‘skin NTDs’, and revised and updated the corresponding strategy.
Spotlight on neglected tropical diseases
«United against neglected tropical diseases». In keeping with this motto, representatives from civil society organisations, governments, science, industry and the World Health Organization (WHO) founded the London Declaration in 2012. In April, experts met once again in Geneva to celebrate the five-year anniversary of the initiative and to coordinate and discuss the ongoing fight against neglected tropical diseases. The presence of Bill Gates and the Director-General of the WHO, Margaret Chan, brought significant additional media coverage, thus helping to bring the topic of NTDs to the attention of the public. This a vital prerequisite for the collective efforts towards sustained and successful measures to combat neglected tropical diseases.
Life after the earthquake
The people of the earthquake-damaged Sindhupalchowk District in Nepal are not only mourning numerous deaths, but almost all of them also lost their homes. Nearly two years after the severe earthquakes, the initial emergency aid phase of the project has come to an end. The victims continue to live in provisional shelters, with few toilets and limited access to water. Getting to the next village or to the hospital in emergencies means hours or even days on foot.
Health for refugees in urban Cameroon
Since the beginning of the ongoing armed conflicts in the Central African Republic, more than a quarter of a million people have fled to neighbouring Cameroon. This mass immigration has overwhelmed the health system in the cities. In July, FAIRMED, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), began an expansion of its offered health services in the cities of Douala and Yaoundé.
New additions among the NTDs
There have been some new additions to the group of neglected tropical diseases. Alongside snake bites, the World Health Organization (WHO) now includes scabies and mycetoma (a chronic soft tissue infection) in the official list of neglected tropical diseases. Against a backdrop of a lack of diagnostics, vaccines, medicines and fair access to treatment opportunities for NTDs, the total of 20 neglected tropic diseases now represent one of the greatest challenges for global health.
Joint meeting of all FAIRMED country coordinators
FAIRMED country coordinators from Cameroon, the Central African Republic, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka visited Switzerland in early August. Over the course of five days, they discussed future goals and challenges, shared valuable knowledge and experience, and explored strategic options for action. A meeting of this kind is a rare event that will hopefully be repeated.
Ignazio Cassis is elected Federal Councillor
Ignazio Cassis has been elected to the Federal Council in Switzerland. However, few people are aware that Cassis has also been active in the area of development cooperation for three years. In 2014, Ignazio Cassis joined FAIRMED on an expedition into the jungles of Cameroon. There, he experienced directly what on-site aid really means and how important it is to enable the poorest people in the world to lead an independent life. After three years as a member of the board of trustees of FAIRMED, Ignazio Cassis stepped down in order to occupy his new post as Federal Councillor.
Nepal implements national insurance system
With respect to item number three (‘Health for All’) in the list of Sustainable Development Goals, it is the developing countries in particular that face far-reaching reforms. In October, the Nepalese parliament passed a new health insurance law, making it one of the first developing countries to take the step towards a more equitable health policy.
FAIRMED project handed over to the Cameroon government
After around six years of activity, in November the FAIRMED project for the integration of people with disabilities was officially handed over to the Ministry of Social Affairs in Cameroon. The handover marked the first milestone for the nationwide inclusion of people with disabilities.
Medical breakthrough: Leprosy vaccine
In the future, the current and protracted treatment for leprosy – so-called multidrug therapy – could be replaced by a promising vaccine. The American Research Institute for Infectious Diseases IDRI is in the process of determining whether the vaccine could represent a realistic treatment option for leprosy sufferers. In December, FAIRMED announced that it is supporting the study with a financial contribution.