Honduras: Leading the Way in the Americas through Integrated Efforts to Treat Neglected Tropical Diseases

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Honduras is one of Latin America’s leaders in health and integration; their nation-wide effort to control and eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) draws upon the institutionalized infrastructure of the country’s national vaccination week activities, and works across multiple sectors to deworm as many children as possible throughout the country.

Honduras’ unique and successfully-integrated approach to fighting NTDs is highlighted in a recently published success story, click here to read in Spanish).The success story highlights one of the country’s pilot programs which dewormed children aged one four as part of the country’s vaccination week activities and scaled up to reach all preschool children at-risk, as well as Honduras’ efforts to deworm all school-aged children across the country.

In Honduras, 870,816 preschool children and 2 million school-age children are at risk for soil transmitted helminth infections (also known as intestinal worms). Intestinal worm infections are wide-spread and have a 50 percent prevalence rate in nearly half the country’s municipalities. These infections can cause severe anemia and contribute to pregnancy complications in women and severe malnutrition in children. NTDs also pose a threat to the development for endemic countries like Honduras by trapping the most vulnerable populations in cycles of poverty.

To address the heavy NTD burden within the country, Honduras’ NTD program leverages two platforms: Vaccination Week in the Americas and the Escuelas Saludables program. During Vaccination Week in the Americas, the deworming of children aged one-four occurs alongside a variety of other health interventions like vitamin A supplementation and vaccinations. And concurrently, Honduras’ Ministry of Health works with the Ministry of Education and Social Development, the World Food Programme and others to deworm school children across the country. Just last year, the Global Network partnered with these groups, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Operation Blessing and the MAMA Project to deworm more than one million school children.

And beyond just deworming, Honduras is integrating water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH) practices into its NTD prevention efforts. Because NTDs are easily spread by contaminated water sources and a lack of hygiene and sanitation practices, health workers and teachers promote hygiene education among children through the Escuelas Saludables program. Additionally, four safe water systems (hydrochlorinators) were installed in the municipalities of Marcovia and El Triunfo.

Honduras’ deworming program has been successful not only because of its integrated nature, but also because of its political and public support. For example, in 2010 Honduras formed a National NTD Committee, called the Mesa Tecnica, which includes NTD experts from the Ministry of Health, PAHO country office and various other partners including academia and nongovernmental organizations. The Mesa Tecnica has led efforts to map the prevalence of intestinal worms and develop the national NTD plan.

Honduras also has the support of Global Network NTD Special Envoys including Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, former PAHO Director, His Excellency, President Ricardo Lagos Escobar of Chile and His Excellency, President Alvaro Arzú Iriogoyen of Guatemala.

This combination of political and public support, and a well-designed and integrated NTD program have solidified Honduras’ position as a leader in NTD control and elimination efforts in the region. To learn more about Honduras’ efforts and to read the full success story, click here.

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