ABU DHABI, The Reach Campaign, a first-of-its-kind fundraising initiative to end the Neglected Tropical Disease, NTD, river blindness, will launch this February in the UAE. In partnership with forward-thinking brands and corporations, the Campaign takes an innovative approach to raising money to end the disease, while also educating the public about river blindness through strategic, targeted advocacy efforts.

Over 200 million people worldwide require treatment for river blindness, one of the leading causes of preventable blindness. Like many NTDs, river blindness disproportionately affects the world's poorest people, trapping their families in cycles of poverty as when adults suffer from river blindness, children are taken out of school to support their care.

The Reach Campaign has been made possible by generous support of its corporate and brand supporters. These include, the Emirates Red Crescent serves as a strategic partner for the Campaign, administering fundraising activities in the UAE, founding partners Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, ADNOC, and Etihad Airlines will leverage their platforms in support of both fundraising and promotional activities, supporting partners include ADMM/Yas Marina Circuit, Aldar Properties PJSC, Abu Dhabi Department of Municipalities and Transport, Flash Entertainment, Miral, and UAE Exchange.

Commenting on the significance of the campaign, Dr. Mohamed Ateeq Al Falahi, ERC Secretary-General, said, "The Reach Campaign to combat river blindness in countries that suffer related health challenges reflects the growing role of the UAE and its leadership in fulfilling human and health needs, and improving lives in fragile and troubled areas."

He continued, "We are pleased to be part of this initiative, and one of the strategic partners in implementing and achieving its goals. River blindness is a threat to human development in the countries it affects, especially in Africa, and hinders its governments' efforts to achieving development and desired progress."

Nassar Abdul Raouf Al Mubarak, spokesperson for The Reach Campaign, said, "The Reach Campaign is the latest effort in the UAE's long commitment to ending NTDs. Our culture is one of generosity and we recognise our responsibility to help those around the world that suffer from preventable diseases. This campaign is a platform for the UAE to come together as a community around the very tangible goal of ending river blindness and thus improving the life of millions around the world."

Proceeds from the campaign will go to the Reaching the Last Mile Fund, RLMF, a ten-year, US$100 million initiative launched in 2017 by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and several supporters. Administered by the END Fund, RLMF delivers prevention and treatment across seven countries in Africa and the Middle East: Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sudan and Yemen. The Fund also works towards the elimination of co-endemic lymphatic filariasis, which can lead to the equally debilitating elephantiasis.

In 2018, the Reaching the Last Mile Fund delivered over 13.5 million treatments for river blindness and LF, and trained 76,000 health care workers to help expand treatment and outreach.

Omar Suwaina Al Suwaidi, Director of the Executive Office Directorate at ADNOC, said, "ADNOC is pleased to be a founding partner of The Reach Campaign, which is playing a crucial role in combating river blindness. The partnership closely aligns with the UAE's humanitarian efforts around the world and reflects ADNOC's commitment to support and create a sustainable and positive social impact. We will continue to support this charitable cause by leveraging our platforms to promote the campaign so we can help secure a bright future for the millions of people affected by the disease."

Etihad Airways' Head of Sustainability and CSR, Mariam Al Qubaisi, said, "Corporate responsibility is an incredibly important pillar of Etihad, as we are dedicated to building programmes that not only support the residents of the UAE, but improve the lives of people around the globe. River blindness is a terrible disease that impacts millions of individuals who have contracted it, as well as their families and communities. Working together we can end River Blindness and give hope and a future to millions."

The Reach Campaign will kick off this February in the UAE, engaging the community through advocacy, activations and fundraising opportunities. While the campaign will start at home in the UAE, it is designed to gradually expand to global audiences.

Just AED2 can provide the medicine and treatment to protect one person from river blindness, lymphatic filariasis and several other co-endemic diseases for the entire year. Inspired by the power of this small act, the theme of the UAE campaign is "Give 2, Save 2". On social media, people are asked to show their support by posting photos of themselves making a hand gesture of "V" held up to their eyes and use the hashtag #reachtheend.

For the first phase of the campaign, donations can be made online via Emirates Red Crescent and via SMS, kiosks, ATM machines, and donation boxes. Over the coming months, additional partner activations and touchpoints will be announced.

Source: Emirates News Agency