Student leaders break the silence on dengue at the UN
I attended the 7th Annual Millennium Campus Conference (MCC) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, organized by the Millennium Campus Conference. This annual conference gathers some of the brightest university student leaders from over 50 countries, all of them highly interested in solving some of the most pressing development problems around the world.
The event was particularly important because the main topic targeted the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the young people’s input on their implementation. For Break Dengue, this was the perfect time to share our global campaign against dengue, a disease that the international community aims to end by 2020. Young leaders at the conference helped raise awareness by bursting a balloon, as a symbol of “breaking the silence” on dengue disease control.
The importance of the SDGs for the Break Dengue community
One of the main outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference was the UN Member States agreement on launching a process to develop a set of SDGs, which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), focusing on the post-2015 priority areas for the achievement of sustainable development. In practical terms, the sustainable agenda moved to focusing on 17 concrete SDGs, to be achieved by 2030.
During MCC15, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs (@JessDSachs), Director of The Earth Institute and Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on the MDGs, pointed out that “we are at the start of the age of sustainable development and we have to start doing things differently.”
The third and sixth SDGs are directly related to Break Dengue’s global cause: they focus on health and well-being for all, and on ensuring access to water and sanitation for everyone. The event therefore allowed us to highlight that dengue – the fastest-growing mosquito-borne disease, which has the potential to impact up to 40% of the world’s population – needs to be specifically targeted within that goal, similarly to malaria, tuberculosis and polio, in order to achieve sustainability.
From the perspective of the international community, the momentum around the SDGs brings forward the fact that dengue is also directly related to other sustainability issues such as access to clean water and sanitation (as dengue mosquitoes thrive in stagnant water), as well as climate change (as temperature rises, dengue may become more prominent). Neglecting dengue means neglecting our sustainable future, outlined in the UN goals.
During the MCC15, I had the great opportunity to personally meet Mr. Mogens Lykketoft (@Lykketoft), President-Elect of the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly, and former Minister of Denmark. He joined us at the event, recognizing our efforts in achieving the SDGs as young people. I got the chance to chat with him about our online community as a tool to join forces in defeating dengue. He was happy to support us by holding the Break Dengue balloon as a symbol of breaking the silence.
In his speech to all delegates, Mr. Lykketoft acknowledged the great responsibility of young people in the sustainable development agenda of 2030, emphasizing the importance of a “pragmatic and action-oriented outcomes” when it comes to solutions and innovations in the sector.
Other interesting dengue-related initiatives led by young people
One substantial part of the event was the opportunity to meet other organizations and campaigns working on global health issues.
The END7 (@END7) campaign of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases aims to end several neglected tropical diseases (NTDs): whipworm, hookworm, roundworm, trachoma, river blindness, elephantiasis and schistosomiasis. These diseases infect over one billion people worldwide.
The Global Brigades (@GlobalBrigades) is the largest student-led social responsibility movement, working in four developing countries to resolve global health and economic disparities. They run education campaigns on dengue prevention in different communities.
Undoubtedly, the MCC15 was the perfect opportunity for young people who share a passion for sustainable development to see how they can change the world. On our side, we are breaking the silence around dengue, believing that together we can bring change. You can help us by signing our online petition.
Our special thanks goes to all the people who supported Break Dengue during the MCC15 at the United Nations in New York.
Read more about the MCC15 participants’ sharing the struggles of their communities as well as the testimonial of Colombian delegate Gabriel, who managed to overcome dengue.