This week saw the parliamentary launch of the UK Coalition against Neglected Tropical Diseases which brings together leading UK organisations with the aim of controlling and eradicating these diseases.

The neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of 13 parasitic and bacterial infections that affect over 1.4 billion people, 90% of whom live in Africa, Asia and South America. NTDs are both a cause and a consequence of poverty, causing mortality, disability, stigma and reducing the educational and employment opportunities of the world’s poorest people.

The Coalition was launched by the Rt. Hon Hilary Benn MP in a special meeting held in the UK Parliament.

He welcomed the formation of the Coalition, noting that "we are stronger together than apart."

Rt. Hon Hilary Benn: "If we can combine our expertise it can result in progress in defeating these terrible diseases. We all have a responsibility. What is clear is that we need more funding, we need more attention.

He continued, "All of the world’s children have the right to live without these diseases and we have a moral obligation to make this happen".

Speakers at the launch in Parliament included Dr Lesley Drake of Partnership for Child Development, Imperial College London. Dr Drake emphasised the importance of including the education sector in the control of NTDs and the success seen by school-based deworming programmes.

Dr Lesley Drake: "It is clear that school based deworming is an investment that governments are increasingly willing to take. We can track the deworming pills, we can track the pounds and we have shown how the money has been effectively spent.

There is therefore great value in the UK NTD Coalition as it will undoubtedly lead to governments taking ownership of school based deworming programmes."

Dr Paul Emerson of the Carter Centre UK summed up the premise of many of the presentations by stating: "[with NTDs] we are talking about reaching hundreds of millions of people. The need for pilot programmes is over – we know what to do and how to do it. We now just need to be supported to go out there and do it."

Vice chair of the All-Party parliamentary Group on Malaria and NTDs – Lord Rea – encouraged participants not to forget about the "bottom billion" people in the world who are living in poverty and are particularly prone to NTDs.

The UK Coalition against NTDs is a collaborative partnership between The Carter Centre, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Partnership for Child Development, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative and Sightsavers.

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