Your Excellency Professor Eng Huot, Secretary of State, Ministry of Health
Your Excellency Mr. Im Kuch, Secretary of State, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport
Excellency Sang Riha, Deputy Governor of Siem Reap
Representatives from the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control
Provincial and District Health Representatives
Distinguished School Directors, Students, Guests, Ladies, and Gentlemen
More than 1 billion people - one-sixth of the world's population - suffer from one or more neglected tropical diseases, also known as NTDs. These diseases affect the world's most vulnerable populations - those who are poorest and have little or no means to protect themselves from illness. Their impact on individuals and communities is devastating. In addition to the over 500,000 people who die annually from the consequences of NTDs - millions suffer from chronic disability, pain, disfigurement, and social stigma that keeps them from living full, productive lives.
The fight against neglected tropical diseases is one of the best investments in global health - for just 50 cents per person per year, we can get the drugs to the people who need them the most, if governments and donors can commit to mobilizing and directing resources. And the good news is that everyone is coming together to do just that. USAID's NTD Program started in 2006 with a small investment in 5 countries, and since then has grown to cover 25 countries. In May of this year, we launched the "One Billion and Counting" global campaign commemorating the delivery of over one billion NTD treatments.
But that would not have been possible without the contributions of the private sector. Pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Pfizer have donated a record $6.7 billion worth of NTD drugs to countries receiving support from USAID since 2006. An astounding and inspiring contribution that is changing lives everyday.
Likewise, in Cambodia, it is teamwork that is helping to beat back NTDs. USAID works through FHI 360's End in Asia project to partner with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to oversee the distribution of medicine and prevent the spread of soil-transmitted helminth infections among primary school children throughout the country. This is one of the diseases that contributes to the high rate of malnutrition and prevents children from learning. Together we are encouraging children to practice healthy behaviors like proper sanitation and hygiene. These are low cost and highly effective measures that are stopping NTDs.
USAID has also provided support for the Royal Government's declaration that Cambodia should be free of lymphatic filariasis and trachoma. Through the End in Asia project, USAID is funding surveys on these diseases that will inform a dossier that will be submitted to the World Health Organization. It is exciting to know that a Cambodia free of these very debilitating diseases is in within our sights.
These partnerships - between the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports; private sector pharmaceutical companies; donor agencies like USAID; and schools like Wat Bo Primary school - are the real reason why we can truly celebrate the one billionth treatment against NTDs today. It is important that we recognize how far we have come together.
It is equally important that we see clearly how far we need to go. We need to redouble our efforts, encourage added investment, and support the work of heroes like we are doing today.
On behalf of USAID, I am honored to be part of the partnership against NTDs here in Cambodia. We are in a unique position to deliver the final blow to NTDs and we have the means and the will to do it. Let's not let Cambodia's children down.
Last updated: January 14, 2015