With Strong Ties to The Task Force, New WHO Project Aims to Eliminate NTDs in Africa
Maria Rebollo Polo, MD, MPH, former director of programs for The Task Force’s Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Support Center, has been named team leader for the World Health Organization’s (WHO) newly established Expanded Special Project for Elimination of NTDs (ESPEN).
ESPEN is a successor to the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control, but with a broader scope and mandate. The project aims to advance the elimination of the five most common NTDs in Africa: lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis, and trachoma.
Rebollo will serve as a key liaison among multilateral partners, including The Task Force for Global Health, working to eliminate those infections. She also will coordinate field activities for mapping and treating NTDs.
“Maria’s understanding of the problems of NTDs in Africa and her command of the details around how best to approach them are unparalleled,” said Eric Ottesen, MD, director of the NTD Support Center. “Her placement within ESPEN provides a truly extraordinary opportunity for The Task Force and its collaborators to continue to play important roles in meeting the NTD challenges of Africa.”
Also playing a key role in ESPEN is Paul Emerson, PhD, director of The Task Force’s International Trachoma Initiative. As co-chair for ESPEN’s steering committee, Emerson has provided key insights on the structure and function of the new WHO project, and continues to contribute in an advisory capacity.