Partnership aims to eliminate blinding trachoma and scale up the fight against other neglected tropical diseases
Guest blog by Ibrahim Jabr, President, International Trachoma Initiative
This week has seen a significant development in the fight against blinding trachoma. As president of the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI), I was pleased to announce on March 18 that we are joining forces with The Task Force for Child Survival and Development (the Task Force) to significantly scale up efforts and leverage additional resources for eliminating trachoma, a neglected tropical disease (NTD) that is the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness.
All of us at ITI are excited by the enormous potential that this merger brings to the Global Elimination of Blinding Trachoma by the year 2020 (GET 2020). We realized in 2006 that to meet this WHO goal, we would need a new partner. The ITI board and executive team engaged in an extensive, year-long search for an organization that could help us scale up and increase the impact of our efforts. We are confident that the Task Force is that partner.
ITI selected the Task Force because of its capacity in program development and implementation, fundraising, and advocacy. CARE USA has expressed interest in working with the Task Force as a partner in trachoma elimination, along with other NGOs.
Particularly important to all our work is the implementation of the World Health Assembly (WHA)-endorsed SAFE strategy that combines public health education, improved hygiene, sight-saving surgery, and treatment with antibiotics donated to ITI by Pfizer Inc. (SAFE stands for Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness, and Environmental improvements.) The Task Force, working with CARE USA, provides a forum for sharing knowledge and expertise in these four program areas, especially in the area of integration of mass drug administration with the global goals of sanitation and safe water.
As many in the field know, ITI was created through a public-private partnership of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and Pfizer in 1998. At the time of our announcement, Jeffrey B. Kindler, Chairman and CEO of Pfizer said: “Pfizer is confident that the merger between ITI and the Task Force is a positive step forward in ridding the world of blinding trachoma … We look forward to continuing our support and working through ITI and its Trachoma Expert Committee to provide the Zithromax that will be needed to eliminate blinding trachoma by 2020 and restore the health and well-being of families now and generations to come.”
I feel that ITI’s merger with the Task Force will not only improve our efficiency and impact but also allow us to take full advantage of a unique synchronicity in approaching NTDs. The Task Force currently houses programs that are successfully addressing three NTDs: onchocerciasis, lymphatic filariasis, and intestinal worms. The ITI merger with the Task Force will allow us to take full advantage of our combined momentum and together increase the impact of our joint efforts worldwide.
Disclaimer: ITI receives funding and donation of Zithromax from Pfizer Inc.