By: Alan Fenwick, Director of the Schistosomaisis Control Initiative and Professor of Tropical Parasitology, Imperial College London
Burundi is a small, heavily populated and desperately poor country in central Africa. Just a few years ago, its people were in the throws of a 12-year civil war, and also plagued by several debilitating neglected tropical diseases, which are a group of infections that disable, debilitate and stigmatize those affected.
In 2007, the philanthropic organization Geneva Global agreed to fund the treatment of parasites in Burundi and brought together several partners to assist Burundi’s Ministry of Health. The Global Network for Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI, Imperial College) and CBM work in partnership to provide technical guidance for Burundi’s National NTD Control Program and National Program for Onchocerciasis Control programs.
Over a period of four years, interventions to protect people against river blindness, and treatment for those infected with schistosomiasis and intestinal worms were delivered annually through schools and communities. With the help of local people and teachers, over 31 million safe and effective treatments were delivered to school children throughout Burundi.
As a result, river blindness was eliminated and the quality of life for all children in Burundi has improved:
- Schistosomiasis prevalence was reduced from 12.7 percent to 1.7 percent
- Anemia prevalence fell from 25 percent to below 10 percent
- Worm prevalence and intensities were significantly reduced
The school wide deworming will continue for several more years to ensure children are adequately nourished to complete their primary education, allowing for a break in the cycle of poverty. Such interventions are highly cost effective as well. The cost of delivering over 31 million treatments was less than $10 million – an extremely cost effective way to improve the health of children and to get them back in school!
Be a part of the NTD movement today and visit the Global Network’s Get Involved page to combat neglected tropical diseases.