New Advocates Join Global Effort to Eliminate Neglected Tropical Diseases

Former presidents of Guatemala and Chile and former PAHO director join forces with the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases to eliminate diseases of poverty

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WASHINGTON, D.C., May 7, 2013 – Today, the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (Global Network), a major initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, announced His Excellency, President Alvaro Arzú Irigoyen of Guatemala (1996-2000), His Excellency, President Ricardo Lagos Escobar of Chile (2000-2006) and former Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Dr. Mirta Roses Periago as the organization’s newest Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Special Envoys. They will join the efforts of current NTD Special Envoy, His Excellency, President John A. Kufuor of the Republic of Ghana (2001-2009), who was appointed in April 2012. The collaboration was announced at a panel hosted by the Global Network and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to welcome the new NTD Special Envoys.

The new NTD Special Envoys will focus primarily on the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region. President Arzú, President Lagos and Dr. Roses will provide the political voice and the technical expertise needed to reach the World Health Organization’s (WHO) goal to control or eliminate the most common NTDs by 2020. The NTD Special Envoys will encourage endemic country government officials to prioritize the development and implementation of national plans of action for NTD treatment and control and to increase resource allocation toward these programs. Additionally, they will work with key G8/G20 countries, such as Brazil, Canada and Japan, to increase their support for the prevention and treatment of NTDs through expanded technical assistance and increased investments across the region.

“We are thrilled to expand our team of NTD Special Envoys,” said Dr. Neeraj Mistry, managing director of the Global Network. “President Kufuor’s efforts have paved the way for increased NTD bilateral engagement and advocacy. With President Arzú, President Lagos and Dr. Roses joining him, I am confident that we will see increased commitment towards global NTD control and elimination efforts—particularly among health ministers and policy makers in endemic countries.”

NTDs cause blindness, massive swelling in appendages and limbs, severe malnutrition and anemia. They are a leading cause of pregnancy complications among women and are a key source of poverty, reducing school attendance among children and worker productivity for adults. In the LAC region alone, 100 million people are currently infected with one or more NTD, most of whom live in impoverished, rural areas.

“NTDs disproportionately affect marginalized groups, such as indigenous populations and people living in isolated, rural areas,” said President Arzú. “I am honored to be a part of the Global Network’s special envoy team and the global effort to improve the lives of billions of people currently living in poverty.”
NTD control and elimination programs are some of the most cost-effective public health interventions available today. For a cost of approximately 50 cents per person, a packet of pills administered once a year can treat and protect against these diseases. Pharmaceutical companies donate most of the treatments and many programs use existing infrastructure, such as schools and community centers, to administer them.

“Addressing NTDs today is a highly cost-effective investment in the region’s future,” said President Lagos. “NTD treatment programs help increase school attendance, improve maternal and infant health and support economic development. Eliminating or controlling NTDs will accelerate existing efforts to achieve the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

The LAC region already has made significant progress towards NTD control and elimination. While serving as the Director of PAHO, Dr. Roses set the stage for the passage of the resolution, “Elimination of Neglected Diseases and other Poverty-Related Infections,” which was adopted by all of the PAHO Member States in 2009. This critical call to action set the goal of eliminating 10 neglected infectious diseases and drastically reducing the burden of two others by the end of 2015.

“The LAC region is poised to become a leader in the global movement to control and eliminate NTDs,” said Dr. Roses. “We have already seen unprecedented collaboration across governments, the private sector and civil society groups through the London Declaration and the 2009 PAHO resolution. In my new role as NTD Special Envoy, I will ensure these efforts are carried forward until we meet our elimination goals.”

In 1996, former President Arzú signed a peace agreement that put an end to the 36-year-long Guatemalan civil war. He is also credited with reducing crime rates, improving infrastructure, education, indigenous rights and health care in the country during his term. The dedication of former President Lagos has been instrumental to the economic, health care and educational development of Chile. Dr. Roses, a native of Argentina, recently concluded a widely successful two-term role (2003 to the beginning of 2013) as the Director of PAHO, the oldest international health organization and the regional office for the Americas of the WHO. Dr. Roses has shown a deep, unwavering commitment to achieving equity in the delivery of health care and has championed the cause of marginalized populations in the region who shoulder the greatest burden of disease.

For more information about today’s discussion and to learn more about the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, please visit

About NTDs

NTDs are a group of 17 parasitic and bacterial infections that are the most common afflictions of the world’s poorest people. They blind, disable and disfigure their victims, trapping them in a cycle of poverty and disease. Research shows that treating NTDs lifts millions out of poverty by ensuring that children stay in school to learn and prosper; by strengthening worker productivity; and by improving maternal and child health.

About Sabin Vaccine Institute

Sabin Vaccine Institute is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization of scientists, researchers, and advocates dedicated to reducing needless human suffering caused by vaccine preventable and neglected tropical diseases. Sabin works with governments, leading public and private organizations, and academic institutions to provide solutions for some of the world’s most pervasive health challenges. Since its founding in 1993 in honor of the oral polio vaccine developer, Dr. Albert B. Sabin, the Institute has been at the forefront of efforts to control, treat, and eliminate these diseases by developing new vaccines, advocating use of existing vaccines, and promoting increased access to affordable medical treatments. For more information please visit