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How we're working to improve the sustainability of neglected tropical disease (NTD) programmes

5 October 2021

A major focus of the next decade and beyond is ensuring sustainable national Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) programmes. The success of the World Health Organization (WHO) ten-year strategy or “road map” for NTDs depends on effective, sustainable implementation of interventions to control and eliminate disease.

Carolyn Henry (below), Senior Programme Advisor at SCI Foundation and co-Chair of the Sustainable Systems Cross Cutting Group for the Neglected Tropical Diseases NGO Network (NNN) explains the significance of sustainability in the context of NTDs.

Carolyn Henry

Carolyn Henry

What does the Neglected Tropical Diseases NGO Network (NNN) group on sustainability want to achieve?

A key component of sustainability within NTD programmes is that all partners are working towards a shared goal. The NNN cross-cutting group on sustainability is the platform for sharing expertise and experience, as well as supporting coordination of member organisations’ individual work on sustainability. Having shared goals and agendas will support sustainability within NTD programmes.

Can you tell us about SCI Foundation’s approach to sustainability?

We are currently developing an approach on sustainability at SCI Foundation.

Sustainability is one of SCI Foundation’s Ways of Working. It is embedded into our strategy and is a cross cutting theme through all our work. Our working model is to work in close partnership with governments directly, promoting endemic country ownership and enhancing capacity within national health systems. Additionally, we provide technical expertise in areas of work that are specific to interruption of transmission and elimination of schistosomiasis as a public health problem. Our aim is to empower health systems while supporting the reduction of the burden of disease.

Training health workers in Madagascar. Credit: END Fund/Vivianne Rakotoarivony

Training health workers in Madagascar. Credit: END Fund/Vivianne Rakotoarivony

What are the current challenges that get in the way of achieving sustainability in NTD programmes?

The definition of sustainability within NTD programmes remains a challenge. It can be seen by some as focussing on reducing the reliance on external financial support by improving efficiency and coordination. Others see it as ensuring endemic countries to have full ownership of their programmes. This is discussed in the paper by the NNN Sustainability Working Group here and the work culminated in a statement with the NNN working definition of sustainability. Achieving sustainability requires everyone to be working towards the same goals and a clear definition is a strong foundation for this.

What are some recommendations/things that need to happen to make NTD programmes more sustainable?

Supporting endemic countries to either create or implement their sustainability action plans through all our work is key. Several countries now have sustainability action plans, but need support from all partners, donors and implementers to actualise the plans and embed them in everyday work.

Flyer for sustainability webinar 06.10.21

Carolyn will be a moderator at the webinar: Fresh Takes: A conversation with stakeholders about doing business differently to secure sustainable NTD programs on October 6th, 2021.

You can register here for this event and help spread the word about this upcoming virtual discussion hosted by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with the Neglected Tropical Disease NGO Network (NNN).




As a Senior Programme Advisor for our programmes in Ethiopia and Tanzania, Carolyn has a Master’s degree in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She is a registered Nurse specialising in Intensive Care, Tropical medicine and sustainable development. Carolyn has worked for Medecins Sans Frontieres and Raleigh International, living all over the world including Nigeria, Tanzania, Nepal and India. Having worked within the world’s largest health employer (the NHS) as a ground level worker, lived in a variety of countries, and with her experience in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programmes, Carolyn brings first-hand insight into supporting the development of appropriate public health programmes and the management of sustainable development strategies.