Why 2020 is Shaping Up to be the "Year of NTDs"

Yaobi Zhang, Chair, NNN

Written by Yaobi Zhang

Today, 30 January 2020, marks the inaugural World NTD Day, an opportunity to shine a light on progress made, barriers to overcome and upcoming opportunities towards the control, elimination and eradication of NTDs as set in Sustainable Development Goal 3.3. 

The last decade has seen significant progress towards these goals. Increased coordination and collaboration between NNN members, public, private, philanthropic sectors and the World Health Organization has contributed to 31 countries being validated by WHO for eliminating at least one NTD and 1.7 billion treatments being delivered in 2017 alone. The 2012 London Declaration, signed eight years ago today, was a landmark moment in this effort, building a framework for collaboration between endemic country governments, donors, research and NGO implementing partners to combat 10 NTDs. Since then the WHO has increased the list of NTDs to 20 diseases.

At the heart of NTD work are many multi-stakeholder and cross-sectoral partnerships that are being strengthened to tackle the cross-cutting development issues that allow NTDs to thrive. These include partnerships to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene, inadequate housing, and to address barriers to accessing livelihoods and basic services through to disease-related stigma and social exclusion. 
2020 is set to be an important year in this journey to end the epidemic of NTDs and fulfil the commitment made in Sustainable Development Goal 3.3. In June 2020, the World Health Organization will launch its new NTD Roadmap for 2021-2030 at a global NTD summit in Kigali, Rwanda. The roadmap will be a key guiding document for the global and national response to NTDs over the next decade and will become a critical tool to help deliver multi-sectoral programs that cut across the 20 diseases and support the strengthening of health systems and access to universal health coverage.

The NTD summit will be an appropriate place to launch the Roadmap, bringing together endemic country governments, WHO, donors and NGO partners to mobilise the political momentum and resources needed to achieve the goals set forth in the new Roadmap. The Kigali Summit on Malaria and NTDs will occur alongside the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which brings together 53 heads of state to discuss how the Commonwealth of nations can contribute to a future which is fairer, more sustainable, more secure and more prosperous. 

The process to update the WHO global strategy “Water, sanitation and hygiene for accelerating and sustaining progress on neglected tropical diseases” 2015 – 2020 is also underway and NNN members are playing a crucial role in supporting inputs. The new strategy will build upon its call for urgent collaboration between the WASH sector and NTD community. This World NTD Day also marks the one year anniversary of  the WHO and NNN toolkit, “WASH and health working together: A ‘how-to’ guide for Neglected Tropical Disease programmes”. The first of its kind, this toolkit provides step-by-step guidance to NTD program managers and partners on how to engage and work collaboratively with the WASH community to improve the delivery of services to underserved populations affected by NTDs.

Towards the conclusion of this momentous year, the NNN will convene its 11th Annual NNN Conference in Kathmandu, Nepal, 8-10 September. This will be an opportunity for the NTD community to reflect on and celebrate this “Year of NTDs,” as we exchange experiences, learn from one another and work together to build and sustain the momentum of 2020 through to 2030. 

With a new WHO NTD Roadmap, as well as the meetings in Kigali and the NNN conference in Kathmandu, 2020 will provide critical policy and advocacy moments, drawing attention to the key challenges in the NTD space, and encourage continued commitment from the global community of partners and stakeholders. Kicking off this exciting year and a new decade, World NTD Day is an opportunity to bring the NTD community together around these defining moments. It also serves to align the community to address the cross-cutting development issues that need to be overcome to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Meeting SDG targets for WASH, nutrition, climate, education, poverty, gender, inequity and partnerships will be necessary to end NTDs and to strengthen sustainable health systems to achieve universal health coverage. This World NTD Day, the NNN remains committed to building the evidence for cross-sectoral partnerships and holistic programmes that address prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and care with no one left behind. The NNN is ready to maximise the opportunities that 2020 will bring and to amplify the unified voice of NNN members on common issues to achieve our NTD goals. 


  • Yaobi Zhang - Chair, Neglected Tropical Disease NGO Network