Obed Imbahafi emerged as the winner of the written multichannel creativity category during the seventh International Society for Neglected Tropical Diseases (ISNTD) festival in London. The event which was held online on March 16, is an annual conference that uses communication, arts, entertainment, and science to help complex public health messages reach patients, and public and global health professionals worldwide. “I contested in the written, journalism, radio, or audio, art or exhibitions, and film categories when I heard of the competition, from February 3 to March 10. These were open for all individuals, governments, and NGOs from different continents of the world,” the 23-year-old said. Imbahafi’s main entry was his collection of 10 poems on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), ‘From Suffering to Hope’. His aim is to evoke people’s emotions and help them understand NTDs and inspire them to take action to prevent or treat these diseases. The young writer also submitted articles on the double burden of climate change and NTDs, and the power of children in fighting NTDs (in film and short story format). A number of well-established organisations contested in different categories like Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), Sightsavers, Johnson & Johnson, SCI Foundation, World Mosquito Program, Science Journalism Ghana, and Canadian Network for NTDs, Reaching the Last Mile, among others. The International Society for Neglected Tropical Diseases is an independent organisation providing a multidisciplinary global platform to an international network of individuals working in the fields of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), diseases of poverty, and global development. In 2021, Imbahafi also represented Rwanda where he won the written category in a global youth storytelling competition on NTDs. His Grandpa’s Diary entry about intestinal worms won him the top prize of $2,500, with a plan to develop a social media website and mobile application focused on tracing the history of Africa and bringing African youth back to their roots. “I hope to launch the website in May, and anticipate creating the phone application in July, and launching it in August, with hopes of upgrading it frequently,” he said. NTDs affect over 1.7 billion people. Over a billion of those people are below the age of 15. ALSO READ: Rwandan writer scoops global award Imbahafi started publishing content related to climate change and NTDs in January on Tealfeed, a knowledge-sharing platform that keeps people’s feed informative and empowers creators, where he is yet to publish ‘From Suffering to Hope’. He said that the first three poems are about the suffering of individuals and communities affected by NTDs, while the seven highlight hope that emerges through advocacy, awareness, and access to effective treatments and prevention efforts. In 2020, Imbahafi won ‘best photo’ during the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) young innovators boot camp on Covid-19. He also led the second-prize-winning team during the young innovators' boot camp in 2021. ALSO READ: We should all be fully committed to ending NTDs – health activist According to Imbahafi, the boot camp was packed with great ideas and innovations from participants from different backgrounds. “My team comprised creative minds from Rwanda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa, though we didn’t emerge winners in the competition, one of my creative drawings and designs posted on Facebook was judged the best for the entire competition, which granted me an unprecedented opportunity to join the special World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) summer school on intellectual property and knowledge transfer in South Africa,” he said. The writer notes that the events at WIPO enlightened him on creativity, teamwork, and ethics, noting that he has realised his resourcefulness and worth as a Rwandan. “To achieve a world without NTDs, we have to stop seeing affected individuals and communities as numbers or cases, but as lives, souls, with so much grace. Let’s work together with the intention of saving lives not decreasing numbers,” he emphasises. ALSO READ: Rwanda commits to end neglected tropical diseases According to World Health Organization, neglected tropical diseases are a diverse group of 20 conditions that are mainly prevalent in tropical areas, where they mostly affect needy communities and excessively affect women and children. These diseases cause devastating health, social and economic consequences to more than one billion people. “Many lives can be saved by providing access to clean water and adequate sanitation, but we also need to increase access to medicine and this will only be achieved when we stop viewing health in isolation during policy making. There is an overlap between public health, trade, and intellectual property which needs attention as those two domains support research, development, and distribution of medical technologies, and they have a direct effect on medicine affordability,” Imbahafi told The New Times in an interview last year.