Sightsavers and the END Fund have fuelled the global conversation about neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by hosting a session at the TED Summit in Edinburgh.
The TED Summit, held every few years, gathers around 1,000 members of TED’s global community for five days of talks, workshops, interviews and debates. This year’s summit, on 21-25 July, explored issues such as the progress countries are making to tackle NTDs including blinding trachoma.
Sightsavers’ CEO Dr Caroline Harper and the END Fund’s Sam Mayer presented a session looking at how countries are making huge strides towards eliminating these debilitating diseases. Dr Harper highlighted how the World Health Organization-approved SAFE strategy (surgery, antibiotics, facial cleanliness and environmental improvements) is helping to fight the disease, while Mr Mayer explained how deworming programmes can drastically reduce the number of people infected with intestinal worms, which affect 1.5 billion people.
Those attending the session were challenged to build a ‘tippy tap’, a homemade device made from a recycled water container, rope and four wooden poles that enables people to wash their hands and faces when there’s no running water. This helps to prevent trachoma from spreading.
Dr Harper said: “The tippy tap really captured people’s interest. People were fascinated to know more about neglected tropical diseases. There was a real sense of outrage about the fact that simple solutions exist, yet these diseases continue to blight the lives of millions.
“As many countries get closer to eliminating trachoma, we discussed the need to keep the disease at the top of the agenda, to ensure health services are equipped to deal with cases, disease surveillance continues, and the huge gains already made are not lost. People left the session buzzing with ideas about how to keep the momentum going.”
Dr Harper was previously invited by TED to speak at the TED conference in Vancouver in April 2018, when she called on philanthropists to join the Audacious Project to tackle trachoma. The project has led to a $105 million investment from several partners that will be used to support the Accelerate programme, a five-year initiative that aims to eliminate trachoma in nine African countries.