NTDs Ideas Forum: Programme Innovation in a COVID-19 Context

22 Sep 2020


The novel SARS-CoV2 coronavirus has affected everyone around the world, infecting millions and killing hundreds of thousands, shutting down economies, and disrupting essential health services and disease control programmes – including those for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). It is increasingly clear that the public health landscape in which NTD programmes are operating will be changed, and programmes will need to adjust how they deliver interventions in ways that minimize the risks of SARS-CoV2 transmission, while also enhancing the efficiency and impact of programmes to catch-up on lost progress due to related disruptions. The drastic changes brought about by COVID-19 has created space and necessity for developing and testing new innovative tools and strategies for NTDs.

In response, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, ELMA Philanthropies, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Expanded Special Project for Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases at WHO AFRO are excited to announce the upcoming NTDs Idea Forum: Programme Innovation in a COVID-19 context. A series of virtual meetings, the Forum will unite NTD control programmes, implementing and technical partners, and innovators with donors as they consider how NTD programmes might need to change in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Have an idea on how NTD programmes can innovate in this new COVID-19 environment? We want to hear it, even if you don't consider yourself an NTD expert.

Register now and apply for a chance to pitch your idea for potential funding.

Deadlines for concept notes:

  • Adapt/Integrate: September 16, 2020
  • Optimize: September 23, 2020
  • Accelerate: September 23, 2020

Adapt & Integrate

Programmes will need to adapt planning and delivery of MDAs and other interventions to communities to minimise the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2. The shift to door-to-door activities may further strain already limited financial and human resources, making it essential for programmes to explore adaptations to help reduce costs.

There may also be opportunities to integrate interventions across NTDs and other health programmes, or use existing drug distributors to support community-based COVID-19 contact tracing. Integrated delivery will save time and financial/human resources in ramping-up interventions and minimize the level of contact with households.

This dual track seeks innovative ideas that adapt delivery of NTD interventions and surveys and/or integrate these activities within other health campaigns.

Examples include:

  • Novel approaches to integrating different NTD interventions with other health campaigns
  • Adapted ways to examine eyes for signs of trachoma to minimize risks of COVID-19
  • More efficient approaches to conducting NTD surveys, including integrated surveys
  • Innovative virtual training methods


The pandemic gives us an opportunity to reassess how NTD activities are conducted and evaluate how to improve and optimize them.

One example is the use of digital tools and data layers to improve microplanning for MDA and overcome inefficiencies of using paper treatment registers, maps, and outdated population denominator data. Many of these tools have been effectively used by other health programmes where digital microplanning has improved the coverage, efficiency and impact of campaigns, and these tools can be readily modified for use in NTD programmes.

This track seeks to identify quicker, smarter and more impactful ways to plan and deliver NTD programmes and conduct surveys within target communities.

Examples include:

  • Employing digital microplanning tools from polio and routine immunization campaigns for NTD programmes
  • New delivery modalities for deworming, including engagement with the private sector
  • Using digital tools to design and conduct more efficient NTD surveys


The disruption to NTD activities caused by COVID-19 may adversely affect progress towards the 2030 NTD Roadmap targets. In order to maintain momentum, we must mitigate the impact of the pandemic on existing programmes and identify modified intervention strategies. There may also be opportunities to accelerate progress, especially in those communities where NTD infection levels remain high despite years of intervention.

This track seeks approaches that not only get programmes back on track, but also intensify and/or expand the scale of interventions to expedite progress towards 2030 disease targets.

Examples include:

  • Implementing more intensive MDAs for trachoma in a way that reduces infection in areas where previous progress has been less than expected
  • Using real-time data to target more focal interventions for schistosomiasis


Realizing a good idea can come from anywhere, any individual and/or team from national programmes and not-for-profit organisations and commercial organisations can apply. Subject to availability to receive U.S. non-profit funds.

We strongly encourage submissions from endemic countries and are looking for solutions that represent the diversity of the global health community. Applicants are encouraged to partner with local NTD programmes within the Ministry of Health, as appropriate.

How to apply

Teams will be able to submit a short concept note that outlines their proposed idea, which will be reviewed by a donor working group. The most promising submissions will be invited to pitch their ideas at one of three virtual meetings or Funding Forums, involving donors and the wider community.

During the Funding Forums, each pitch will be discussed and donors will decide which ideas they are willing to fund.

Following the pitch sessions across each respective track, funders will select the most promising pitches as finalists for funding consideration. Funders and their selected pitchers will collaborate offline to further refine and adapt the original short proposals into a full grant or, for projects in progress seeking to pivot, a revised agreement that will be handled separately by the individual funding organization.

Research Implementation WHO