When the Gates Foundation first awarded the University with $5.4 million in 1999 to start the then estimated $20 million project, it was with the expectation that other members of the global donor community would join the effort. While the University of Notre Dame garnered selected private contributions from alumni and friends, the large scale donations, international public health awards, and grants did not come to fruition as expected. This might be due in part to the President’s AIDS, TB, and Malaria Initiative, which was announced immediately after the initial investment in Haiti by the Gates Foundation, and large scale funding was directed toward this effort. While this is a worthy effort to address terminal diseases, the global LF efforts became further neglected in the process. It was not until 2008 that USAID gave funds to RTI to support UND partner IMA World Health with a 3-year grant totaling $3.14 million to address NTDs through the sole means of MDA.
In addition to the consortium efforts of the University, USAID, RTI, IMA World Health, and the Gates Foundation donors include the Sabin Institute, CDC, Eck Foundation, and many others who have supported MSPP’s National Program to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis.
All partners are now joining the global LF elimination effort under the direction and leadership of the Global Network Neglected Tropical Disease (GNNTD) to step up the global effort to prevent and treat NTDs and raise awareness of the devastating disease impact, which has been largely ignored by the international public health community.
Around the same time as the commencement of the effort to eliminate LF, the global effort for malaria, tuberculosis, and AIDS was launched. While those diseases are a pressing global health challenge, the truly neglected diseases have unfortunately been further neglected. With LF known to infect 120 million, with 1.3 billion people at risk in the world, more people will soon become the living-yet-forgotten victims.