World Health Workers Week: Honoring the NTD Fighters

Susan Matthews educating her community in Boroma Village in Sierra Leone about schistosomiasis

Susan Matthews educating her community in Boroma Village in Sierra Leone about schistosomiasis

Sierra Leone’s Kono district is home to some of the highest rates of schistosomiasis in the country. Nearly 2 million people here are infected by this painful and sometimes-deadly neglected tropical disease (NTD).

Susan Matthews, a community health worker from Boroma village in Kono District, is on a mission to fight schistosomiasis in her community. We’re highlighting the important impact of her work, and the work of others like her, this World Health Workers Week. Health workers like Susan help sustain quality health care in rural communities by both treating and educating their communities about effective ways to prevent various diseases, including NTDs.

Susan’s work has an immense impact on people like Sahr Gando, a miner in Kono district. Sahr Gando became infected with schistosomiasis after spending hours a day mining for diamonds in infested waters. But through Mass Drug Administration (MDA), Susan is able to distribute medications to Sahr Gando and the rest of the community.  After receiving medication, those treated will be freed from NTDs for one year.

But Susan’s work doesnt stop there.  Together with other health workers, Susan educates the community about the medication and how to prevent getting the disease.

“If you just come and drop the drugs, it will not be effective,” says Susan. “So we have to help educate them so that they know about the drug and the disease. We have to keep talking, talking, talking, talking, and then they will accept.”

Thanks to committed health workers like Susan, rural communities can have access to medication and also acquire knowledge about schistosomiasis prevention.

Luckily, people like Susan exist around the world.  This February, we were fortunate enough to meet several other dedicated health workers in India.

Health Workers at Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) are helping those with lymphatic filariasis (LF) in Orissa, India. LF is a painful and disfiguring NTD that impacts more than 20 million people in the country. The devoted health workers at CASA help with disease management for individuals that have LF by cleansing and removing bacteria from their legs. Abhishek Bachchan, has also worked with health workers in Orissa, India in an effort to help those that suffer from LF.

Health workers are uniquely positioned to have an incredible impact on health outcomes around the world because they understand the needs of their communities and they also have the trust of community members. Health workers also build individual and community capacity by increasing health knowledge among communities and promoting community empowerment.

We’d like to thank Susan Matthews, the health workers in Orissa, India, and all health workers across the globe that continue to fight NTDs in their communities.

Watch and learn more about the great and essential work that Susan Matthews is doing in Sierre Leone here.

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