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Helmsley Charitable Trust Increases Funding to End Neglected Tropical Diseases in Five African Countries

Grants will help protect 88 million people from infectious diseases that cause blindness and disfigurement

NEW YORK, December 12, 2023 – The Helmsley Charitable Trust announces $6.3 million in renewed commitments to eradicate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in five sub-Saharan African countries. The grants, awarded to The Reaching the Last Mile Fund (RLMF) and SightSavers, support final pushes to end trachoma in Zambia by the end of 2025 and river blindness and lymphatic filariasis in 2026 in Guinea Bissau, Malawi, and Rwanda.

“We can see the finish line. We support proven ways to prevent and treat river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, and trachoma, and we want to do our part to help countries achieve 100 percent elimination,” said Walter Panzirer, Trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Helmsley has invested an additional $4,130,500 in RLMF to fund treatment and elimination of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis (LF) in Malawi, Rwanda, and Guinea Bissau, with the goal of wiping out the diseases in three years. Ghana will also receive support to eliminate these two NTDs by 2027.

“In collaboration with public and private partners, philanthropy can add momentum to the final push to protect 88 million people across five nations from these infectious diseases. When communities no longer need to shoulder the economic and social burdens of NTDs, they will be in a much better position to grow and thrive, and that is part of the vision of a stronger, healthier future for all that we are working toward,” Panzirer continued.

RLMF, a $100 million partnership launched in 2017 by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, makes programmatic investments and works with local governments, the World Health Organization, and pharmaceutical companies to eliminate and provide treatment for river blindness and LF. In 2022 Helmsley made an initial investment of $22.5 million over three years in RLMF through The END Fund, which also received the most recent grant for the RLMF partnership platform.

This year, Helmsley awarded $2,193,748.00 to SightSavers to banish trachoma from Zambia by December 2025. SightSavers will support Zambia’s Ministry of Health in eliminating the disease in 33 trachoma-endemic districts, an area with a population of 3.6 million. Billions of treatments have already been successfully distributed, and the grant will enable Zambia to consign the disease to the history books.

Helmsley’s support, first announced earlier this month at the Reaching the Last Mile Forum during COP28, combines with more than $750 million in commitments from a range of other donors to help countries work toward the goals of the WHO’s NTD Roadmap, which calls for a 90 percent reduction in the number of people needing treatment for NTDs; and for at least 100 countries to have eradicated one NTD by 2030.

Neglected tropical diseases affect 1 in 5 people in the world and cause disability and disfigurement, with devastating economic and social effects. River blindness and trachoma both can result in blindness. LF affects the lymphatic system and can cause the abnormal enlargement of body parts.