Neglected Tropical Diseases in the Eastern Mediterranean Region: generating a collaborative research and practice agenda

The Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) and the Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases of the World Health Organization (WHO-TDR) jointly organized a conference entitled “Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in the Eastern Mediterranean Region" on May 11-12, 2018.  The conference was attended by approximately 50 national, regional and international researchers, as well as repre​etatives of the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health and the WHO.

​​The organizer of the conference, Dr. Nada M. Melhem (Associate Professor of Infectious Diseases) highlighted the impact of NTDs with more than one billion people currently infected around the globe and 400 million people in the Eastern Mediterrane​an Region (EMR) affected by at least one NTD. “This conference came in response to the increased needs to acknowledge the existing gaps and challenges to control NTDs in the region. Effective control strategies can be achieved when appropriate public health measures are delivered. The Implementation of appropriate measures with high coverage will contribute to achieving the targets of the WHO NTD Road​map aiming towards the elimination of many and the eradication of at least two NTDs by 2020", Melhem stated.

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In his opening speech, the Dean of FHS Iman Nuwayhid welcomed the attendees and highlighted the need to address NTDs especially in the Eastern Mediterranean region in light of the challenges that the health sector is facing. Dean Nuwayhid emphasized the need for capacity building and more cooperation within institutions. “As scientists, and in order to ease the challenges and achieve the goals of increasing awareness and reducing the impact of NTDs in the region, we should think together of building up teams and networks between institutions in the region" said Nuwayhid.

During this two-day conference, national, international and regional speakers presented on the global and regional d​ata pertinent to NTDs and infectious diseases of poverty including tuberculosis, malaria, leishmaniasis and other diseases including surveillance systems. In addition to recent research updates, current evidence on NTDs in conflict situations, specifically data from Syria and Yemen, were also presented. Implementation research and regional capacity building in the EMR were also discussed.  Dr. Dermot Maher (Coordinator, Research Capacity Strengthening) of the Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases at WHO-Geneva emphasized the role of AUB as one of seven universities around the globe participating in  the TDR postgraduate training scheme. Maher also highlighted the importance of taking into account the specific considerations regarding the region, the countries, the populations, the diseases and the approach to disease control in order to identify knowledge gaps and research priorities. During the conference, the regional graduate students working on their Master of Public Health at FHS and supported by the TDR Program presented their field work on NTDs in poster sessions. ​