THE Archbishop of Canterbury has taken part in discussions on plans to eliminate often-ignored tropical diseases which affect countries across Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
At a private event in Davos, Switzerland, during the World Economic Forum, Archbishop Welby joined business leaders and philanthropists, including Bill Gates, to discuss how best to eradicate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs): infections that are particularly common in the developing world but receive less attention and funding compared to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
The event was hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the END Fund, a philanthropic initiative which, since 2012, has raised £56 million in an effort to end the top five most prevalent NTDs.
Despite attracting less interest than more well-known diseases, research has found that in sub-Saharan Africa NTDs have as much impact as malaria and tuberculosis, and, in many cases, are relatively cheap and simple to treat and prevent.
The round-table talks at Davos in which Archbishop Welby took part centred on how the private sector can contribute to the World Health Organization’s goal of controlling or eliminating the most common NTDs by 2020.
NTDs are thought to affect as many as 1.4 billion people worldwide; in 2013, they contributed to 142,000 deaths. The END Fund, which focuses on raising money from businesses and philanthropists, claims that, for every dollar invested in controlling NTDs, at least $50 more is returned through increased economic productivity over time.
Ellen Agler, the chief executive of the END Fund said: “The END Fund appeals to both head and heart. The short-term transformation in individuals’ well-being after treatment is startling, but so too is the long-term impact on national economic development and poverty alleviation for millions.
“The maths makes sense for our strategic philanthropists whose business acumen means they automatically look for great returns on their investments.”
As well as talks on combating disease, Archbishop Welby also took part in a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum on how to tackle growing distrust and insecurity throughout society, and wrote an article for the Forum’s website on how to ensure that money does not wield too much power over people.
“It seems that the more interconnected the world becomes, the more power is held over individuals and nations by economics, money, and flows of finance,” he wrote. “The problem with materialism is not that it exists, but that it dominates.”
He also said that he hoped his new book Dethroning Mammon, (News, 1 December), would help churches throughout Lent to “dig deeper” into the relationship between mankind and money.