Last Friday, the G8 Lough Erne Accountability Report was released by the UK government in the lead-up to the G8 summit happening at the end of this week. The report looked at the G8’s past commitments in nine development areas, including aid effectiveness, health, WASH and food security, and evaluated how well the G8 has done at fulfilling those commitments. We are pleased to see that the G8’s past commitments on NTDs were specifically mentioned and evaluated, although the report is not completely candid about the lack of progress being made by many of the G8 countries in this area.
The report measured the G8’s successes in the area of NTDs against its commitment made at the 2006 St. Petersburg Summit:
“We must also increase our efforts in the fight against other preventable diseases, including pneumonia, diarrhoea and neglected diseases such as leishmaniasis, Chagas disease and onchocerciasis, particularly by increasing the volume and quality of medical research on neglected diseases in developing countries.”
The G8 rated itself as “excellent” on fulfilling this commitment, citing a 44 percent increase in public funding from G8 countries for NTD research and development (R&D) from 2007-2011, as well as the January 2012 launch of the London Declaration and the development of country-led NTD plans with donor and pharmaceutical support from G8 countries. Indeed, R&D for NTDs is essential to our battle, and we are grateful for the G8’s attention and achievements in this area.
However, the G8 has talked big about NTD control and elimination in the past―and, while talk is great, action is always much better. While we are pleased to see NTD R&D included in such detail in the 2013 accountability report, sadly, NTD treatment was mostly overlooked. Conversely, in Hokkaido Toyako, Japan in 2008, the G8 promised to reach at least 75 percent of people infected with NTDs in the most affected countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Disappointingly, this important and much more quantitative commitment was left out of the Lough Erne Accountability report (as well as last year’s Camp David Accountability Report). By opting to measure itself against the St. Petersburg rather than the Hokkaido Toyako commitments, the G8 clearly prefers to talk about NTD R&D over actual treatment.
Even though some G8 countries are certainly doing their fair share and should be proud of their accomplishments, such as the U.S. and U.K., others score well below ‘excellent’ on providing treatment for NTDs. A focused and coordinated effort by the world’s leaders is critical to seeing the end of these diseases by 2020.
The 2008 Hokkaido Toyako commitment to reach at least 75 percent of people infected with NTDs is not only big and bold, but it is achievable. We hope that in the future, the G8 will remember all of the health commitments it has made, and more importantly, work to actually fulfill them. We recognize that accountability alone does not deworm school children, but it is a step in the right direction.