(MENAFN- Khaleej Times)
Published: Fri 3 Feb 2023, 7:44 PM
Reaching the Last Mile (RLM), in partnership with Speak Up Africa, has launched an initiative to empower youngsters to lead efforts to eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in Africa.
RLM is a portfolio of global health programmes driven by the personal commitment of the president, his highness sheikh mohamed bin zayed al nahyan. The Senegal-based Speak Up Africa is a policy and advocacy action tank dedicated to public health and sustainable development in the continent.
The new youth leadership initiative will provide funding, mentorship, and resources to youth-led organisations working to end NTDs in their communities. Participants will receive grants and training to strengthen their capacity to engage in policy and decision-making spaces, and position them as leaders in the movement to eliminate NTDs.
Nassar Al Mubarak of RLM noted that in partnership with Speak Up Africa, the new initiative will accelerate progress in the fight against NTDs.
“The potential to eliminate NTDs in Africa is within our grasp. By promoting youth leadership, and by mentoring and motivating a new community of young advocates, we can beat NTDs, save lives, and help protect the health and wellbeing of future generations. This initiative reflects our leadership's decades-long focus on disease elimination, and the UAE's commitment to empowering young people to create a safer, healthier, and more equal world.”
The initiative will provide $250,000 (around Dh918,300) in grants and training to at least 10 youth-led entities within Senegal and Niger over a 15-month period. The supporting network will act to unify and amplify the voices of youth-led organisations, enabling them to engage with like-minded peers, share knowledge and solutions, and bring learnings back to their own communities.
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Yacine Djibo, executive director of Speak Up Africa, said:“By partnering with Reaching the Last Mile, we can ignite collective action and harness the power of African youth, often overlooked during discussions and decision-making processes, to transform engagement into tangible action so that nobody, anywhere, lives at risk of NTDS. This way, they can step forward and take both leadership and advocacy toward eliminating NTDs.”
RLM's new commitment closely follows the fourth annual World NTD Day, held on January 30. World NTD Day was launched in 2019 by Sheikh Mohamed and formally recognised by the WHO in 2021, through an effort championed by the UAE and other committed partners.
To mark the day, RLM and Speak Up Africa co-hosted the first in a series of youth talks in Kaolack, Senegal, bringing together young advocates, government leaders, civil society actors and private sector representatives. Through an animated debate, the group explored how young people can best be engaged in decision-making spaces, to help cross the last mile of NTD elimination.
Attendees included Mama Gueye, health commission president at Kaolack City Hall, who addressed the crowd and urged the youth to share their ideas for combatting NTDs, and Senegalese artist Bamba Ly Seck, who uses his artwork as a platform to drive awareness and action in support of NTD elimination.
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NTDs are a group of communicable diseases that are preventable and treatable, yet continue to affect more than 1.7 billion people worldwide, including one billion children. There are currently 20 diseases and disease groups defined as NTDs by the World Health Organisation (WHO), including river blindness, leprosy, elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis), Guinea worm disease, and rabies.
The youth leadership initiative is part of wider efforts to drive progress towards the goals of the WHO's 2030 roadmap on NTDs, which seeks to reduce by 90 per cent the number of people requiring treatment for the diseases, to have 100 countries eliminate at least one NTD, and to eradicate two diseases. To date, 47 countries have eliminated at least one NTD, showing that progress is attainable and possible.
The WHO roadmap also calls for the integration of young people across all NTD activities, recognising the youth as key stakeholders who can ideate new solutions and help mobilise change.
Dr Ibrahima Soce Fall, director of the department of control of NTDs, WHO, said:“Young people can show us the way as we seek to effect positive change and end the burden of NTDs. Their energy, values, motivation, and connectedness can play a game-changing role and bring about increased access to NTD interventions. They have a vital role to play too in raising awareness and in spearheading the innovative solutions that will benefit the NTD community worldwide.”