Gates Foundation, Abu Dhabi Pair to Fight Forgotten Diseases

To tackle dangerous but curable tropical diseases in poor countries, the global health community is following the money—increasingly to the Persian Gulf.

On Wednesday, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan launched a fund with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to eliminate two persistent and debilitating neglected tropical diseases.

The $100 million fund will seek to eliminate river blindness, or onchocerciasis, and lymphatic filariasis, which leads to a condition known as elephantiasis, from countries where they circulate in Africa and the Middle East. The Crown Prince will donate $20 million and the Gates Foundation 20% of the total amount raised to the new “Reaching the Last Mile Fund,” with a plan to raise the remaining $60 million from others in the region and beyond.

Beyond the capital commitments, GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Merck & Co. are also supporting the eradication effort. GSK will supply treatment to deworm children in target countries while Merck will donate the medication ivermectin to treat parasites linked to lymphatic filariasis and river blindness.

“If we don’t double down on investments in innovation, more children will die needlessly and poor health will continue to hold back millions of people and limit the economic potential of many developing countries,” Bill Gates, the billionaire philanthropist and co-chair of the Gates Foundation, told a forum in Abu Dhabi.


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