Heads of state from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS), gathered in Ufa, Russia, for the 7th BRICS Summit, themed “BRICS Partnership—A Powerful Factor of Global Development.” The summit, which took place in July 8-9 2015, held true to its theme, and for the first time, the BRICS heads of state agreed to support the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) as part of their health cooperation efforts.

The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases welcomes the BRICS’ pledge to address poverty and inequality to ensure sustainable development. We especially applaud their commitment to tackle NTDs and other diseases that hamper development.

This landmark decision, outlined in the Ufa Declaration, strengthens the commitment to support NTD control and elimination after the issue was first raised during the Fourth BRICS Health Ministers meeting, held in Brasília, Brazil, in December 2014.

Apart from Russia, the other four BRICS nations are endemic for the most common NTDs. With the BRICS collectively accounting for about a third of the world’s children at risk for intestinal worms, and India alone carrying almost half of the world’s population at risk of lymphatic filariasis, the outcomes of the Ufa Summit reflect the growing leadership role that these nations are playing in health and development.

In addition to elevating this issue at the policy level, the BRICS are showing the world that they are serious about carrying out their political commitments and making significant strides to improve health at home and abroad. For instance, after reaching 400 million people annually in lymphatic filariasis prevention through mass drug administration programs, India expects to achieve elimination well before the global 2020 targets.

As they continue to make progress within their own borders, the BRICS nations are ushering in new innovative approaches to international cooperation that draws upon their own experience to help reduce the NTD burden in other endemic countries. For example, Brazil and Venezuela have joined forces to help the indigenous Yanomami community, which resides along their shared border, to tackle the last remaining endemic areas of river blindness in the Latin American and Caribbean region. A schistosomiasis elimination plan is underway in China, with strong support from Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. China is harnessing its experience in this area to make a difference globally, as demonstrated by the successful China-Zanzibar joint cooperation project on schistosomiasis.

Opening operations shortly after the 7th BRICS Summit, the New Development Bank (NDB) — a BRICS-led effort that will support infrastructure and sustainable development projects in emerging economies – offers an excellent example of how future BRICS cooperation on NTDs could take shape. The NDB could invest in integrated projects that support NTD treatment programs as well as efforts to expand access to clean water and sanitation facilities — two infrastructure improvements that can play an important role in reducing the spread of NTDs. This comprehensive approach will help address multiple risk factors for NTD transmission, maximizing impact and ensuring sustainable success.

And now, with the inclusion of NTDs in the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), BRICS nations have the opportunity to lead the call for the inclusion of a global indicator to ensure NTDs will be properly measured and prioritized on the development agendas of all UN member states.

The upcoming Fifth BRICS Health Ministers’ Meeting, led by Russia, offers a key moment during which BRICS nations can develop a concrete plan of action to push their NTD commitments forward, making sure that no time is wasted in extending relief to the communities that so desperately need it. The Global Network urges BRICS states to take advantage of this rare opportunity to prioritize NTD control and elimination.

About the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases

The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases is an advocacy initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute that works in partnership with international agencies, governments, academic institutions, corporations, non-governmental development organizations and the general public to raise the awareness, political will and funding necessary to control and eliminate the seven most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2020. 

About the Sabin Vaccine Institute

The Sabin Vaccine Institute (Sabin) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization of scientists, researchers and advocates dedicated to reducing needless human suffering from vaccine-preventable and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Since its founding in 1993 in honor of Dr. Albert B. Sabin, the developer of the oral polio vaccine, Sabin has been at the forefront of global efforts to eliminate, prevent and cure infectious and neglected tropical diseases. Sabin develops new vaccines, advocates for increased use of existing vaccines and promotes expanded access to affordable medical treatments in collaboration with governments, academic institutions, scientists, medical professionals and other non-profit organizations. For more information, please visit www.sabin.org.