Haiti Sees Success with NTD Program

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“Working together, we can do more”.  Dr. Abdel Direny of IMA World Health

On Thursday, June 25, InterAction hosted On the Road to Elimination: The Haiti Neglected Tropical Disease Program, bringing together esteemed panelists, each uniquely impactful in the journey to make NTDs history in Haiti.  The event was attended by government officials from Haiti  and partners from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CBM, IMA World Health, the University of Notre Dame, and RTI International t. USAID support for the Haiti NTD Control Program comes from the ENVISION Project, managed by RTI International and implemented by IMA World Health. We gathered to learn about and discuss the country’s success in controlling and eliminating neglected tropical diseases – especially lymphatic filariasis (LF) and soil-transmitted helminths.

The panel featured Dr. Oscar, head of LF and Malaria programs at the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population, Dr. Desormeaux, Deworming Program Coordinator of the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population, Dr. St. Eloi of the Haitian Ministry of Education, Dr. Desir of the University of Notre Dame, Sikhumbuzo Vundla of Christian Blind Mission and Dr. Direny of IMA World Health.

Dr. Oscar kicked off the discussion, highlighting the history of Haiti’s LF program and treatment integration with soil-transmitted helminthes.  He shared an impressive statistic:  In 2012, more than 8.3 million people were treated for LF in Haiti.  The nation’s incredible progress and Dr. Oscar’s presentation confirmed that the program has a very bright future.

The Global Network applauds the nation’s MDA success: Haiti has reached the recommended 5 rounds of MDA needed to control NTDs in over half the country.  The program is building a solid foundation to continue towards reaching their goal to cover the entire country in the next five years.

The Ministry of Health has deliberate plans to continue coordinating the LF and soil-transmitted program through mass-drug administration to both deworm individuals and treat LF.  Moreover, there are strategies planned to reach a wider audience through sanitation education. Dr. Desormeaux spoke to the benefits of integration in reaching more of Haiti’s population, also confirming NTD treatment as one of the “best buys in public health”.

How has the program been so successful?

Haiti’s efforts to control and eliminate NTDs are not limited to rural areas.  Dr. Desir spoke of the effort to provide MDA to the urban Haiti population, noting that controlling NTDs in urban areas poses unique and difficult challenges.  The NTD program leveraged radio, TV, and community meetings to spread the word about NTD treatment, and mobilized resources to successfully treat 70% of LF cases.  According to Abdel Direny, NTD Program Manager at IMA World Health, the NTD program has also been a platform for other public health benefits, providing shoes, hygiene kits, bed nets, and even water filters during the cholera outbreak.

But the program is not just mobilizing resources, it’s mobilizing people: 30,000 volunteers administered MDA to provide treatment against parasites and LF.   Additionally, the program is utilizing its efforts to spread other important public health messages.  Dr. St. Eloi described the success of the many school-based interventions Haiti has employed including training teachers in schools to recognize symptoms of parasites and utilizing school curriculums as a means to educate children about the importance of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) initiatives.  Moreover, Self-help Groups were instituted by CBM International, to provide a supportive community for individuals in Leogane infected by LF and to reduce the stigma surrounding LF and parasitic diseases.

Though the success of the program was recognized, the panelists consistently reiterated the need for sufficient funds to bring the NTD program to scale.  With an aggressive plan to control and eliminate LF by 2020, the program will mobilize existing resources but will also depend on additional support.

At the conclusion of the event, the atmosphere was positive and encouraging.  “Strong Haitian leadership, steadfast partners, generous support from USAID and the donation of albendazole from GlaxoSmithKline have been critical to the success of this program. We remain committed to elimination and look forward to supporting the Haitian Ministries of Health and Education in the years to come,” says RTI’s Lisa Rotondo. Haiti’s NTD program has made incredible strides in recent years and there is a strong commitment from the community’s leaders to scale-up current efforts.  The program’s in-country dedicated leadership will ensure the sustainability of and a bright future for these programs.  But Haiti’s continued success is also dependent on us. As Dr. Lammie said, “appropriate support can help countries facing NTDs provide health care and treatment on a very large scale.”

Thanks to Laura Cane and RTI International for their comments. 

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