The COUNTDOWN research consortium has been launched today following a £7 million grant allocation from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) earlier in the year.
As part of the push towards universal access to health services, there is international consensus that NTDs such as onchocerciasis, lymphatic filariasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis, schistosomiasis and trachoma, must be tackled more effectively and NTD control programmes need more assistance.
Where some of these diseases can be treated with a combination of antihelminthics and antibiotics they continue to cause ill-health and disability on a massive scale.
Pharmaceutical companies provide much of the needed medicines for free and Mass Drug Administration (MDA) programmes have managed to deliver these drugs to millions of people living in need.
COUNTDOWN will trial and evaluate new approaches to drug distribution, which target those who are currently overlooked and excluded. It will also examine how NTD programmes can be better integrated into broader health system responses.
COUNTDOWN Director, Professor Russell Stothard, said: “I would like to thank the UK Department for International Development for financing COUNTDOWN. Through a multi-disciplinary partnership which brings together researchers from Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia and Nigeria, the UK, and USA, we hope to create new knowledge which will kick-start other countries’ responses to NTDs and provide practical health systems guidance on how to speed-up and scale-up action.”
The partners in the COUNTDOWN consortium bring a substantive network of contacts in the NTD community including funders, academic and research institutions, drug companies, Ministries of Health, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and policy stakeholders such as the World Health Organisation. This will ensure that COUNTDOWN benefits from the best research intelligence from within the NTD community and stays well informed.
NTD Programme Manager Nana-Kwadwo Biritwum said: “Ghana’s NTD Programme has made good progress over many years of programme implementation with its control and elimination strategies. The challenge now is to ensure elimination of lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis and trachoma. This end game stage poses technical challenges and can best be addressed by projects or initiatives such as COUNTDOWN 2020”
COUNTDOWN is working to support the achievement of the 2020 targets set out in the London Declaration on NTDs.
Partners in the COUNTDOWN Consortium include: the Cameroon Ministry of Public Health; the Centre for Schistosomiasis and Parasitology in Cameroon; Ghana Health Service; FHI 360; Liberia Ministry of Health and Social Welfare; Pamoja Communications and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) which also acts as host and administrative hub of the Consortium.
The consortium’s Twitter handle is @NTDCOUNTDOWN and its website will go live early 2015.