Many Partners, One Voice: Strengthening Collaboration Within the NTD Community

NNN 2018 conference

Strengthening Collaboration Within the NTD Community

2019 is a significant year for the Neglected Tropical Disease NGO Network (NNN) as it celebrates ten years of NGO partnership and collaboration. The NNN was established in 2009 with a vision of a world free from NTDs. Its purpose: to enhance the contribution of NGOs towards that vision by presenting a unified NGO voice on common issues and enhancing a community of practice through membership engagement, learning and sharing knowledge.

Over the past ten years, the NTD landscape has changed significantly. The 2012 WHO Roadmap on NTDs set out a comprehensive plan for the control, elimination and eradication of 17 neglected tropical diseases by 2020. Meanwhile, increased public awareness and political support led to several international commitments in support of NTD efforts. Most notably, in 2012 the London Declaration on NTDs was signed, targeting 10 NTDs for control, elimination or eradication by 2020 and in 2015, Sustainable Development Goal 3.3 included a specific indicator calling for the end of NTDs by 2030. 

At this year’s 2019 NNN conference, hosted in Liverpool, UK, we look forward to celebrating ten years of collaboration and partnership that have contributed to the many successes over the past decade as well as continuing to share experiences through an exciting and diverse programme. The 2019 NNN conference provides a platform to develop and improve strategies for cross-cutting approaches to NTD work and in turn support the strengthening of national health systems. It is also an opportunity to expand cross-sectoral partnerships and align national priorities into the development and delivery of a new WHO NTD Roadmap 2021 – 2030 that will support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

History of The Neglected Tropical Disease NGO Network

The NNN was first conceived during a meeting of members of the onchocerciasis, lymphatic filariasis and trachoma communities in Ghana in 2009. The meeting sought to share experiences and lessons from programmes and identify opportunities for collaboration and improved effectiveness. Since then, the network has grown to include over 85 member organisations, working together through cross-cutting working groups. 

The NNN’s cross-cutting working groups provide platforms that support cross-sectoral collaboration and facilitate the development of new strategies, policies and resources to tackle the development issues that allow NTDs to thrive. Currently the NNN cross-cutting working groups include:

•    Conflict and Humanitarian Emergencies 
•    Disease Management Disability and Inclusion
•    Ensuring Sustainable Systems
•    Integrated Vector Control
•    One Health
•    Skin Related NTDs
•    Water, sanitation and hygiene

Through the NNN cross-cutting groups, the network has evolved to develop a community of practice, which has improved the way the NGO community works with national agencies and implements World Health Organization guidelines. 

NNN collaborative resources

Several resources have been published by the NNN to promote best practices as identified by NNN working groups and task teams. These include:  

The NNN BEST Framework 
Recognising the need for comprehensive approaches to implement and sustain control and elimination efforts, the NNN developed and launched the BEST framework in 2016. The BEST (Behaviour, Environment, Social inclusion, Treatment & Care) framework details the diverse cross-sectoral efforts needed to reach control, elimination and eradication targets for NTDs.  It sets out the NTD community’s commitment to forging new partnerships and working across sectors to ensure equity and inclusion. 

The WHO and NNN WASH/NTD partnership toolkit 
In 2019, the NNN WASH Working Group partnered with the World Health Organization to develop WASH and health working together: A ‘how-to’ guide for Neglected Tropical Disease Programmes. The toolkit provides NTD programme managers and partners with step-by-step guidance on how to engage and work collaboratively with the WASH community to improve water, sanitation and hygiene services to underserved populations affected by NTDs. The toolkit is based on real-life programme experience, which users can match to their needs and local contexts. It includes a series of tools to help build multi-sectoral partnerships, mobilise resources, and design, implement and evaluate interventions. In August 2019, NNN and WHO launched the online interactive version of the toolkit, to make it more accessible to partners across the NTD community.

Collecting stories about NTDs: A beginner’s guide to field communications
In 2019, NNN published Collecting stories about NTDs: A beginner’s guide to field communications. The toolkit was developed by a task team after the “Telling the NTD story” workshop at the 2018 NNN Conference, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which received several requests from program teams for clearer information about how to effectively collect stories from the field. The toolkit aims to strengthen communications capacity among program and technical staff and provides the tools they need to collect high-quality content about people affected by NTDs, to support effective advocacy and public awareness campaigns.
The NNN DMDI working group is currently developing an NTD Morbidity and Disability Toolkit which seeks to provide additional resources for the assessment and monitoring of disease management, disability, and inclusion.

Looking Forward

As the NTD community inputs into the new WHO 2021-2030 NTD Roadmap, it is an important time to align as a community and advocate together in support of our shared goals of strengthening health systems, achieving health equity and a world free from NTDs. This year’s NNN conference provides a platform for stakeholders from across NGOs, health ministries and donor organisations to discuss strategies towards these goals and to share lessons, experiences, align advocacy messaging and cultivate effective collaboration and innovations in the spirit of this year’s theme, ‘Our Vision Beyond 2020: many partners, one voice’. We look forward to welcoming you to Liverpool. 

•    Gail Davey, Chair, NNN, Footwork: The International Podoconiosis Initiative, Brighton & Sussex Medical School
•    Yaobi Zhang, Vice Chair, NNN, Helen Keller International
•    Wendy Harrison, Past Chair, NNN, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative Foundation