Each month, END7 honors one student who has made a significant contribution to our growing movement of student advocates dedicated to seeing the end of NTDs. We are very proud to introduce our October 2015 Student of the Month, Ishmael Tamba Jalloh, a pharmacy student at the University of Sierra Leone College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences. Ishmael joined the END7 Campus Leaders Council to raise awareness of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in Sierra Leone by engaging students at his university in community engagement and outreach to local leaders.
As we reported while profiling Sierra Leone for our NTD Success Stories series last month, six NTDs are found in all 14 health districts in Sierra Leone, threatening nearly the entire population of the country. Strong leadership from Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and in-country partners has helped drive tremendous progress against NTDs like lymphatic filariasis (LF), also known as elephantiasis. More than 57 million NTD treatments had been delivered nationwide by the beginning of 2014, putting the country on track to begin the World Health Organization process of verifying the elimination of lymphatic filariasis (LF) in eight of 14 health districts. Unfortunately, when the West African Ebola epidemic reached Sierra Leone in May 2014, all public health program activities were suspended — including mass drug administration (MDA) for NTDs.
One year later, with the Ebola epidemic receding, MDA restarted in Sierra Leone. Just this month, from October 9-13, the Ministry of Health’s NTD Program, through the District Health Management Team, ran an MDA campaign targeting 1.4 million people with drugs for LF and soil-transmitted helminths (STH). Ishmael volunteered to assist with the MDA, putting his pharmacy education at the service of his community. He shares:
“The mass drug administration campaign ran from October 9th to the 13th. Before the start of the campaign, there was a training for all the health workers and volunteers at the Murray Town Community Health Center [pictured above]. After the training, we were divided into pairs (a health worker and a volunteer) and sent to various communities in Ward 390, Constituency 111, in the western part of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.
“At the start of the drug administration, my team targeted a secondary school, the Sierra Leone Grammar School, in the Murray Town community. At the school, we administered albendazole and ivermectin as a prophylactic treatment for elephantiasis to 850 pupils and 50 teachers. For the remaining days of the MDA campaign, I worked in a slum community called Cockle. In that community, we targeted 1,500 residents for drug distribution.
“During the campaign, we used a measuring rod as a guide for the dosage we should give [pictured left]. If the individual’s height was at the 4th mark, we administered 4 tablets of ivermectin and a tablet of albendazole; if the individual’s height was at the 3rd mark, we administered 3 tablets of ivermectin and a tablet of albendazole, and so on with the second and first marks. This made it easy to give everyone the proper dose to keep them safe from elephantiasis.
“During the campaign, I found out that people are only aware of one out of the seven neglected tropical diseases — elephantiasis, which is called ‘Big Foot’ in our local language. Now, I am thinking that more work needs to be done about all of the NTDs in Sierra Leone.
“Also, during the campaign, I met an 18-year-old girl named Isatu who for the past two weeks has been developing signs of elephantiasis. Her family are saying her swollen legs are caused by witchcraft or black magic, but I advised them go to the hospital and have Isatu be tested for elephantiasis. I hope she receives the treatment she needs, and I am glad to have met her during the campaign.
“All in all, our campaign targeted 1.4 million people in Freetown. I hope my contribution to the campaign made a difference.”
Now, Ishamel is working to establish the first END7 chapter in Africa at the University of Sierra Leone. We are so grateful for Ishmael’s commitment to the fight against NTDs in Sierra Leone and around the world, and we are excited to see our involved in END7’s work, contact the END7’s student outreach coordinator at Emily.Conron@sabin.org to learn how you can get started!