The 14th Annual Neglected Tropical Disease NGO Network (NNN) Conference is taking place this year on the 19th- 21st September in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. The NNN is a forum for non-governmental organisations working in neglected tropical diseases. The theme of the conference is “Reaching new frontiers- powering a new generation of leadership and cross-sectoral collaborations to end NTDs.”
Girija Sankar who is CBM’s Head of NTDs and the Chair of the NNN says:
“I'm truly excited about the 2023 NNN Conference. It is the only global platform for NTD practitioners to come together and celebrate collective achievement. It also provides the opportunity to solve problems that are common to NTD programmes in many countries. This year, our theme focuses on the new generation of leadership needed to accelerate to elimination and I am thrilled that we will have young professionals leading several events at the conference. Delegates will also learn from our routinely scheduled workshops and rapid fire sessions.”
The conference will also discuss and address such issues as the social determinants of health, health equity for hard-to-reach communities and building evidence for action. These topics all form elements of the main pillars of the WHO NTD Roadmap - cross-sectoral working, health system strengthening and innovations in the journey towards disease elimination.
Several CBM staff members will be participating, including CBM’s Senior Programme Manager for NTDs, Julia Amanyi-Enegela, who is running a session on ensuring equitable services for communities.
The participation of the next generation in taking up the baton in the fight against NTDs and being the advocates of the future will also be a focus of the conference and CBM’s NTD Programme Officer Opeoluwa Oguntoye is one of the organisers of the youth panel discussion. He says:
“I am invigorated by the prospect of discussing how young people can catalyse demand for NTD interventions. With young practitioners as panellists from various regions and backgrounds in the NTD space coming together to share their perspectives on the role of young people in advocacy-building, I am convinced that our generation's ability to create digital movements, influence policies, and engage communities will bring new voices and perspectives to the fight to end NTDs.
The role of young people in creating a movement to end NTDs is pivotal. It is not just a choice but a responsibility. We are not just a demographic but a force for change. We possess the potential to influence not only the present but also the future trajectory of global health. Our voices, if unified, can spark conversations, cross silos, and break long-held beliefs. By harnessing the power of social media, grassroots initiatives, and innovative campaigns, we infuse new energy into the fight against NTDs and can create new frontiers that drive change. As I prepare to embark on my NNN Conference journey, I am reminded of the words of Helen Keller "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."
To mark the conference, we are launching our NTD Annual Report, which includes stories that demonstrate how closely CBM’s NTD work aligns itself to the main pillar of the Roadmap.
Babar Qureshi, Director of the Inclusive Eye Health and NTD Initiative at CBM talks about his team’s approach.
“By equipping local health workers to identify and track diseases and by working closely with ministries of health in endemic countries, we have ensured that our interventions have the best possible chance of being sustainable. We have been deliberate about delivering comprehensive programmes that look beyond the presenting disease into eye care services, disease management, rehabilitation, mental health support and education. We want our work in NTDs to do more than simply provide mass drug administrations, although these are, of course, crucial, but to look, in addition, at the wider picture of peoples’ health needs.”
The report includes stories about a project in DRC that looks beyond treatment for NTDs, a collaboration in South Sudan that saved the sight of two young children, an inclusive programme in Ethiopia and a report on strengthening health systems in Nigeria. It also features an account from a CBM member of staff on what motivates her in her work.