The Minister of Health Dr Daniel Ngamije has called for sustained efforts towards fighting against the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in Rwanda and on the African continent. He was speaking during the 30x30 Leaders Cocktail Evening on Thursday, May 26, an event that brought together influential leaders in sport, business, art and health to raise awareness of NTDs and talk about how using shared platforms can amplify awareness. NTDs are viral, parasitic and bacterial diseases that mainly affect the worlds poorest people. Common types of NTDs include Hookworm Infection, Human African Trypanosomiasis, Leprosy, Lymphatic Filariasis also known as elephantiasis, Onchocerciasis, Schistosomiasis, Trachoma, among others. Speaking at the event, Ngamije noted that NTDs are a threat as they debilitate, cause stunting and impairment of cognitive development, as well as death among those affected. “Globally, over 1.2 billion people are affected by Neglected Tropical Diseases. Africa is the most affected part of the globe with almost 40 percent of the global NTD burden,” he said, as he weighed in on the importance of the Kigali Declaration on NTDs, a new high-level political declaration which aims to mobilise political will and secure commitments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 that aims at ending NTDs, among other diseases. He noted that the declaration comes in to inspire country ownership of NTDs programs by increasing domestic financing and encouraging sustained and renewed commitment to reach SDGs related to NTDs and the WHO Roadmap 2021-2030. The Minister also talked about the success Rwanda has registered in its fight against NTDs, where for example, between 2008 and 2020, the prevalence of intestinal worms in school aged children from 66 percent to 41 percent. “We can hope to double this decrease and sustain our achievements in the years to come,” he said. Last month, Rwanda received a notification from the WHO, that Human African Trypanosomiasis has been eliminated as a public health problem in the country. Currently, medics in Rwanda are collecting evidence for 5 more NTDs: Yaws, Onchocerciasis, Leprosy Lymphatic Filariasis, and Mycetoma, aiming to come up with a dossier for the WHO to validate their elimination from the country. Ngamije expressed gratitude to partners that have assisted the country in its fight against NTDs, for example the End Fund, the world’s only private philanthropic initiative solely dedicated to ending the most common NTDs. “The government of Rwanda is grateful for the long standing partnership for more than a decade with the End Fund to control the most prevalent neglected tropical diseases that afflict our citizens and hence impede productivity,” he said. Oyetola Oduyemi, the Director of Public Affairs at the End Fund added her voice to that of Ngamije to highlight the importance of the Kigali Declaration, as she referred to it as “a critical vehicle” to securing political will and commitment from stakeholders from both government and civil society from across the African continent. “We believe that this is the time for African leaders from the public sector, from the private sector, from academia, from philanthropy, to rise to the front of this work that we are doing to end the suffering from NTDs,” she said. The event also saw the participation of other influential persons for example Aida Muluneh, a world-renowned artist and photographer from Ethiopia, who has played a big role in gathering leaders from across the arts, sports and political sectors to ignite momentum and collaboration in the fight against neglected tropical diseases. In an interview with The New Times, she highlighted the importance of the creatives industry in transmitting information and bringing neglected issue to the forefront. “My main objective and my life work is: how do we get the visual communication of Africa out to the world to see that there are many things, and within that, is how do we use it as a tool to educate people,” she said. “Collectively, if each person makes their contribution, whatever is neglected can be actually brought to the forefront,” she added. NTDs are entirely preventable and treatable, yet they cause long-term suffering to over 700 million people in Africa, meaning they affect more people than malaria and HIV/AIDS combined.