Aida Muluneh
Aida Muluneh, The blind gaze, 2021, Courtesy of the artist and END Fund

The END Fund, WHO, and Reaching the Last Mile Unveil ‘Reframing Neglect’ at the UN for World NTD Day

Leaders united by the power of art for advocacy highlight urgent need for collective action and investments to achieve the end of neglected tropical diseases

(United Nations Headquarters; New York, NY) – The END Fund, together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Reaching the Last Mile (RLM), an initiative of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is pleased to present Reframing Neglect, a photography series creative directed by contemporary artist and activist Aïda Muluneh, which highlights the need to end neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) globally. The launch of the exhibit at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York City on World NTD Day brings together advocates from across the global health, arts, and sports sectors to demonstrate the power of art for advocacy and inspire collective action to accelerate progress towards the end of NTDs. The exhibit will be formally unveiled with a high-level evening reception moderated by Benny Bonsu, award-winning sports broadcaster and UNESCO Fit for Life and Gender Equality Advocate, and include remarks from the UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, Afghan-Danish professional footballer, physician, and UNESCO Champion for Girls’ and Women’s Education Dr. Nadia Nadim, and leaders from the WHO and the governments of Indonesia and the UAE.

“NTDs are a group of treatable, preventable diseases that needlessly hold back the lives and livelihoods of 1.7 billion people, a disproportionate number of whom are women and girls,” said Aïda Muluneh, photographer and activist. “Art has the capacity to shift perceptions, complementing more traditional modes of advocacy. My hope is that this collection helps educate and inspire audiences to action for NTD elimination, while also sharing an African perspective through the work of myself and the other photographers featured in the collection.”

Reframing Neglect features work from seven photographers, including Muluneh, from six African countries where NTD burdens remain high. Through fine art and documentary photography, the artists promote the cause and effects of NTDs, using art as a tool of shared human emotion, while addressing the ongoing need to spread awareness of NTDs, which still cause severe pain, long-term disability, and death each year.

“On World NTD Day we remind ourselves how critical it is to co-invest alongside our government partners in support of their vision. Only by centering communities most affected by neglected tropical diseases and building partnerships that support local leadership and strengthen health systems will the NTD 2030 roadmap targets be met. Today we celebrate the 47 countries that have already eliminated at least one NTD, and the steadfast support from our partners in the pharmaceutical industry and program implementation who have helped make this happen. We are deeply encouraged by the leadership of countries like Niger, Senegal, and others that are building on this momentum and offering hope that we can indeed match the scale of the problem presented by NTDs and improve the lives and livelihoods of 1.7 billion people globally,” said Dr. Ibrahima Socé Fall, Director of the Department of Control of NTDs, WHO, and Ellen Agler, Chief Executive Officer, the END Fund, in a joint statement.

Sustained investment is critical to meeting global elimination targets. To help address this, the END Fund mobilizes resources to end NTDs and delivers treatments to those in need by growing and engaging a community of activist-philanthropists, managing high-impact strategic investments, and working in collaboration with government, non-governmental organization, pharmaceutical, and academic partners.

To celebrate 10 years of the END Fund’s impact, Muluneh was engaged to create a body of work with photographers from Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, and Sudan. Reframing Neglect includes photography by Meseret Argaw (b. Ethiopia, 1989), Mustafa Saeed (b. Somalia, 1986), Sarah Waiswa (b. Uganda, 1980), John Kalapo (b. Mali, 1983), Omoregie Osakpolor (b. Nigeria, 1990), and Ala Kheir (b. Sudan, 1985). Developed in part with investment from the Reaching the Last Mile Fund, a 10-year, US $100 million fund launched to eliminate two NTDs in seven countries, the collection seeks to tell the story of NTDs and elevate advocacy for them while challenging Western representations of Africa and bringing dignity and grace to their subjects. This didactic approach provokes audiences and conveys the urgent need for education, attention, and action on NTDs whilst protecting subjects from the burden of educating.

“I wish to thank the World Health Organization, the END Fund, and the Reaching the Last Mile Initiative for organizing this powerful exhibition on the impact of neglected tropical diseases,” said HE Mohamed Abushahab, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of the UAE to the UN in New York. “NTDs are treatable and preventable, and it is up to all of us, working together as a global community, to harness the tools and expertise to meet this challenge. We look forward to further collaboration with our partners as we continue on the path towards the prevention, mitigation, and end of NTDs worldwide.”

The debut of Reframing Neglect at the UN on World NTD Day represents a key convergence of leaders within global health, arts, and sports all unified in their shared drive for the end of NTDs. As part of the exhibition launch, interactive QR codes will accompany the photography, driving attention to the Thrive Africa team captained by William Troost-Ekong, professional footballer and Captain, Nigerian National Football Team, and co-captained by Bonsu, on the Game of Our Lives platform, which enables individual users to complete tasks in support of ending NTDs while tracking the real impact had on lives. Dr. Nadim will also use her platform to call on individuals to join in ending NTDs.

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