Community Directed Drug Distributors Help Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases in Sierra Leone

Editor’s note: Here at End the Neglect, we want to highlight the efforts of partners and others in the NTD community on their efforts in the field. The best way to showcase this is to promote the successes of programs and organizations like but not inclusive to, USAID’s NTD Control Program, Helen Keller International and RTI International. We are always looking for NTD success stories that we can share on our blog, so leave a comment or get in touch via the contact form on this page if you have something for us to highlight!

Usman Turay, Community Drug Distributor, right, prepares for drug distribution activities. Photo: Helen Keller International

Usman Turay lives in Gbongboma Junction, population 300, located in Kenema District in eastern Sierra Leone, a war-scarred region known for its gold and diamond mines. People living in Kenema district often suffer from one or more neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). This is why Usman decided to work as a community directed distributor (CDD) for Sierra Leone’s national NTD control program which receives support from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) NTD Control Program.

Usman is responsible for delivering two essential drugs—ivermectin and albendazole—to his neighbors. Donated by the drug companies Merck & Co, Inc. and GlaxoSmithKline, ivermectin is the primary treatment for onchocerciasis (river blindness); the combined regimen of ivermectin and albendazole kills the microfilaria that cause lymphatic filariasis (LF) one of the most debilitating NTDs and the cause of elephantiasis. As an added health benefit, albendazole also effectively kills soil-transmitted helminthes (STH)—such as mature hookworms, whipworm (intestinal worms), and roundworms, as well as their eggs and larvae—that can lead to loss of appetite, anemia, and nutritional and vitamin A deficiencies.

In 2008, Usman joined fellow CDDs in adding albendazole to his annual routine, making 30,000 CDDs nationwide who now distribute both ivermectin and albendazole to a targeted 3.9 million people. In 2009, CDDs achieved 82% geographic coverage of medication distribution across Sierra Leone.

Distribution of ivermectin and albendazole involves more than placing capsules and tablets into a person’s hands. Usman educates his neighbors to give them confidence that the drugs are safe and that they will be protected against blindness, disfigurement, and discomfort. He also directly observes and documents each person’s consumption of ivermectin and albendazole. “I feel good about myself,” he says. “Health is a necessary component of human development, and by protecting my neighbors from these diseases, they can achieve their highest potential.”

USAID support for NTD control in Sierra Leone is provided through a grant to Helen Keller International as part of the NTD Control Program led by RTI International under Cooperative Agreement No. GHS-A-00-00006-00. The Program currently supports national NTD control programs in 12 countries—Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Haiti, Mali, Nepal, Niger, Sierra Leone, Southern Sudan, Togo, and Uganda. For more information, go to our website at http://ntd.rti.org.

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