Dubai: The 2023 RLF Forum (Reaching the Last Mile Forum), a pivotal global health event, has secured over $777 million in pledges to address the growing challenge of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in the context of climate change. This initiative, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, and in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, signifies a robust response to one of the world’s most pressing health crises.
Climate change is exacerbating the spread of waterborne and vector-borne diseases, rapidly fueling outbreaks and overwhelming health infrastructures and workers. The funds raised at the forum will be instrumental in combating these climate-related diseases, which threaten millions of lives.
Hosted by Reaching the Last Mile (RLM) and the Gates Foundation, the forum was a landmark event, marking the first Health Day at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28). The gathering of global health leaders, philanthropists, and policymakers, including H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the UAE, and world leaders such as Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of Tanzania, and Dr. Austin Demby, Minister of Health and Sanitation for Sierra Leone, underscored the urgent need to step up the fight against NTDs.
The forum witnessed the expansion of the Reaching the Last Mile Fund (RLMF) from $100 million to $500 million, aiming to eliminate lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis (river blindness) across 39 countries in Africa and Yemen. The fund’s growth is a testament to the collective effort to address the health challenges posed by climate change.
In addition to the significant pledges, the forum was a convergence of ideas and commitments from various sectors. Contributions from organizations such as the Anesvad Foundation, CIFF, USAID, and others, along with the governments of Germany and Belgium, further bolstered the fight against NTDs.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organisation, commended the significant commitments made at the 2023 Reaching the Last Mile Forum. He highlighted the essential part these pledges play in the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), particularly in the context of the challenges posed by climate change.
In his statement, Dr. Tedros expressed deep appreciation to the global community, notably acknowledging the leadership of the United Arab Emirates, under His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He underscored that these pledges are in line with the WHO’s 2030 roadmap, which aims to eliminate at least one NTD in 100 countries and to achieve a 90 percent reduction in the number of people needing treatment for these diseases.
This year’s forum, attracting over 450 leaders in various fields, highlighted the interconnectedness of climate change and health. The collective efforts at the forum are a significant stride towards creating a healthier world free of NTDs, demonstrating what can be achieved through global solidarity and action.