15 November 2017: His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, launched the Reaching the Last Mile Fund to raise US$100 million with the aim of eradicating, eliminating, and controlling preventable diseases that hinder the health and economic prospects of the world’s poorest people.
The Fund was launched during His Highness’ attendance of the global health forum, Reaching the Last Mile: Together to Eliminate Infectious Diseases, held in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday evening. His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan committed US$20 million to the Fund, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will contribute up to US$20 million. The Fund will be managed by the END Fund, a philanthropic investment platform focused on tackling the five most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
The aim of this 10-year Fund is to support the elimination of two debilitating and preventable neglected diseases: river blindness (onchocerciasis) and lymphatic filariasis (which can lead to elephantiasis).
The launch of the Fund was attended by Jim Young Kim, President, World Bank Group; Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization; Bill Gates, Co-chair & Trustee, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; H.H. Sheikh Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Council; H.H. Sheikh Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chief of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court; Lt. General H.H. Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior; H.H. Sheikh Khalid Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Board of Zayed Higher Organisation for Humanitarian Care & Special Needs; H.E Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance; H.E. Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Member of Abu Dhabi Executive Council; H.E. Abdul Rahman Mohammad Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention; H.E. Reem Ibrahim Al Hashemi, Minister of State for International Cooperation; H.E. Dr. Maha Taysir Barakat; and a number of health ministers from different countries.
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said. “The UAE, under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, continues to provide regional and international support for humanitarian, developmental and health initiatives that target countries and communities in need. The launch of this Fund is part of international efforts to rid the world of two debilitating and preventable diseases.”
His Highness added that neglected diseases continue to hinder the lives of millions across the Middle East and Africa. Eliminating them will have a positive multifaceted impact by lifting millions more across the region out of poverty, but to achieve these goals, there is an urgent need for long-term vision and global partnerships.
Launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Reaching the Last Mile Fund aims to raise US$100 million to fast-track ongoing efforts to end river blindness and lymphatic filariasis in several countries in Africa and the Middle East.
The Fund is supported by in-kind contributions from GlaxoSmithKline plc, which will donate albendazole treatments over the next ten years to eliminate lymphatic filariasis and deworm school-age children in target countries, and MSD, which will donate ivermectin to eliminate lymphatic filariasis and river blindness through the Mectizan Donation Program, with co-investments from the UK Department for International Development (DfID) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Over ten years, the Fund will help to close the gap to elimination and verification in target countries with few or no cases of river blindness, and scale up activities and mass drug administration programs in high-burden countries. The coalition will top up and strengthen existing programs, working through partners that are well established in the field, and increase impact by using an integrated approach in areas where river blindness is prevalent alongside lymphatic filariasis, which requires a complementary drug treatment program.
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, commented: “We are proud to launch the Reaching the Last Mile Fund, a global partnership that will build on past successes and complement ongoing international efforts to free the world of two devastating preventable diseases. No human should suffer from a preventable disease, yet these neglected diseases continue to incapacitate millions of people in Africa and the Middle East. Elimination would help to lift millions more out of poverty, and drive a positive multiplier effect across the continent. There is a need for long-term vision and global partnership to achieve this, and we welcome partners to join us in making an impact.”
Ellen Agler, END Fund Chief Executive Officer, said: “Launched during the official “Year of Giving” in the UAE, this new initiative will ensure millions of people do not have to suffer from blindness and disfigurement from neglected tropical diseases. The vision, compassion, and leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed is exactly what the global community needs now to fast track efforts to get over the finish line and end these diseases for good. All of us at the END Fund are immensely honored to be asked to host this initiative and help ensure that this vision becomes a reality.”
At the Reaching the Last Mile forum, Bill Gates will outline plans to develop a state-of the-art disease elimination institute in Abu Dhabi, in partnership with His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The institute will work with international partners to leverage Abu Dhabi’s unique talents in the global effort to end diseases, and translate data on diseases into actionable policy across the wider region within which Abu Dhabi sits.
Bill Gates, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said: “We are close to eradicating some of the world’s deadliest and most debilitating preventable diseases that adversely affect the lives of millions of the world’s poorest people. Our foundation is pleased to support the launch of a new fund created by His Highness the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed as well as the Global Institute to Fight Infectious Diseases in Abu Dhabi. These two initiatives will help accelerate the fight against preventable diseases.”
The UAE leadership’s commitment to disease elimination began in 1990 through the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founder of the UAE, and has since continued through a series of contributions from His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed. Since 2011, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed has personally committed US$250 million to global efforts to eradicate and eliminate deadly and debilitating diseases.
Notes to editors
About the Reaching the Last Mile Fund
The Reaching the Last Mile Fund aims to free tens of millions of people from the risk of river blindness, a disease of the skin and eye caused by a parasitic worm, by supporting efforts to achieve the first nationwide elimination of the disease in Africa. Since 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) has verified four countries in Latin America as free of river blindness. However, the disease is endemic in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East.
The Fund will also support the elimination of lymphatic filariasis, a parasitic infection which continues to threaten 856 million people in 53 countries worldwide. Infection of the disease occurs when filarial parasites are transmitted to humans through mosquitoes, which impairs the lymphatic system and can lead to the abnormal enlargement of limbs, causing pain, severe disability and social stigma. The WHO goal is to eliminate lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem by 2020. As of 2017, ten countries have achieved this goal.
About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy and productive lives. Through collaboration and partnership, the foundation helps fund research and programs to benefit those living in poverty all around the globe. The foundation works with partners in the Middle East to address the needs of the most vulnerable people through investments in disease eradication, the GCC philanthropic and development aid sector, emergency relief and agricultural research, among other things.
About the END Fund
The END Fund is the only private philanthropic initiative solely dedicated to ending the five most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). By growing and engaging a community of activitist-philanthropists, managing high impact investments, and working in collaboration with government, NGO, pharmaceutical, and academic partners, the END Fund focuses on delivering treatments to those in need. It aims to take a systems approach to understanding, engaging with, and influencing the broad ecosystem of stakeholders working on ending NTDs.
Since the END Fund’s inception in 2012 through the end of 2016, it has successfully reached more than 140 million men, women, and children with over 331 million treatments, raised over $75 million, leveraged over $620 million worth of generously donated medicines, trained over 740,000 health workers, and provided more than 10,000 surgeries to people suffering from blinding trachoma and lymphatic filariasis.