Imagine living in circumstances affected by diseases more devastating than malaria or tuberculosis, and which result in the death of over 500 000 people per year.
Unfortunately, this is the reality confronting more than 1.6 billion of the world’s most impoverished people, including 875 million children.
Neglected tropical diseases, or generally referred to as NTDs, are a group of parasitic and bacterial infectious diseases which include intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis, trachoma and river blindness. They rank in the top four groups of most devastating communicable diseases, alongside HIV/AIDS. Amongst children, infections lead to malnutrition, cognitive impairment, stunted growth and the inability to attend school, while adults suffer from social isolation and are unable to work, and anemia caused by NTDs increases the risk of maternal mortality.
Fortunately, the global community has recognised the need for urgent action, and spearheaded by organisations such as the END Fund, set 2020 as the target date for controlling and eliminating the most common NTDs. To achieve this target, over one billion treatments need to be delivered annually, hundreds of thousands of community health workers need to be mobilized and an annual funding gap of $300 million needs to be filled.
I have been participating in multi-stage desert foot races in some of the most remote parts of the world since 2010 – from the Kalahari, Namib and Sahara Deserts in Africa, to the Gobi Desert in China, the Atacama Desert in Chile, and the most extreme of them all, The Last Desert Race in 2014 in Antarctica.
I enter these events not only for the physical challenge associated with running self-supported through the deserts of the world, but also to raise money and awareness for organisations at the forefront of responding to many key development challenges facing Africa. In the recent past, I have used my desert runs to support the work of the ONE Campaign in Africa, Greenpeace Africa and The Sunflower Fund, an organisation helping people suffering from leukaemia in South Africa.
Supporting these organisations is not only a personal commitment linked to my passion for desert running, but it also relates closely to my work with TechSoup, equipping organisations in Africa and beyond with the technology required to maximise their development impact.
My next desert race is the Grand to Grand Ultra in September 2016 – 273km over six stages in seven days from the Grand Canyon to the Grand Staircase in Utah – for which I am dedicating my participation to the END Fund‘s work in Africa.
After meeting END Fund CEO, Ellen Agler, and COO, Sarah Marchal Murray, at an event in October 2015 in Rwanda, I was immediately impressed by their ambitious agenda, commitment, and achievements to date, and decided to support their cause with this run.
The END Fund mobilises and directs resources to where they can have maximum impact, with a special emphasis on Africa; advocates for innovative, integrated and cost-effective NTD programmes; and facilitates private sector engagement in the fight against NTDs.
Without the work of the END Fund, and other like-minded organisations, NTDs will continue to have an impact on people’s quality of life and ability to achieve their full potential.
I will use the period before, during and immediately after the Grand to Grand Ultra to raise awareness and money for the work of the END Fund, and contribute to increased public understanding of NTDs and their devastating impact, especially in Africa.
Please support my fundraising campaign and encourage your friends and colleagues to do the same.
The countdown to the Grand to Grand Ultra continues…
I am dedicating my participation in the Grand to Grand Ultra to the work of the END Fund. Its mission is to control and eliminate the most prevalent neglected diseases among the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people by 2020.
I’m excited about supporting the END Fund and invite you to join me on this journey.
Together, we can END NTDs!