Category Archives: Africa

END7 at the University of Sierra Leone Leading Social Mobilization and Campus Engagement to Support Mass Drug Administration

By Ishmael I. T. Jalloh
END7 Campus Leaders Council Representative, University of Sierra Leone

Ishmael I. T. Jalloh is a pharmacy student at the University of Sierra Leone (USL) College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences. He launched an END7 chapter at his school last fall and with his peers launched additional chapters at USL Institute of Public Administration and Management and Fourah Bay College, creating a growing movement of students and young people committed to seeing the end of NTDs in Sierra Leone.

In May, these students embarked on an 11-day social mobilization and campus engagement campaign to raise awareness about a major mass drug administration (MDA) campaign to prevent lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis). Through visits to local schools and colleges, media outreach, and creative communication, the students encouraged everyone in their community to participate in the MDA – and even helped with drug distribution in some areas.

Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is caused by infection with one of three species of filarial nematode (Wuchereria bancroft i, Brugia malayi or B. timori) that are transmitted by mosquitoes. Adult worms live almost exclusively in humans and lodge in the lymphatic system. Repeated mosquito bites over several months to years are needed to become infected with LF. The infection commonly acquired during childhood but usually manifests during adulthood as hydrocele, lymphoedema and elephantiasis.

All the districts in Sierra Leone are endemic for LF ( >1% prevalence), and it is a leading cause of permanent disability in the country. Communities frequently shun and reject women and men disfigured by the disease. Affected people frequently are unable to work because of their disability, and this harms their families and their communities.

To combat LF, preventive chemotherapy through mass drug administration (MDA) of ivermectin and albendazole started in 2008 in western rural Sierra Leone, but was interrupted in 2014 due to the Ebola outbreak. MDA was restarted in October 2015 and continued in May 2016.

END7 is an international advocacy campaign of the Sabin Vaccine Institute with student chapters active around the world. In May of 2016, END7 student supporters at the University of Sierra Leone (USL) led an 11-day campaign to raise awareness and educate students about the LF MDA in Western Area, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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The END7 USL team prepares to launch their social mobilization campaign.

The objectives of the social mobilization and campus engagement campaign were to:

  • Increase public awareness of the MDA
  • Educate heads of colleges and students on the importance of MDA
  • Educate heads of colleges and students about the drugs being distributed (ivermectin and albendazole)
  • Advocate to District Health Management Team so that community health workers would be sure to take these drugs to the colleges
  • Encourage heads of colleges and students to take these drugs

The social mobilization and awareness raising targeted people in authority and the most influential people in the colleges and campuses: heads of colleges, deans of faculties, administrative assistants, wardens of Colleges, Student Union presidents, and leaders of Christian organization, Muslim organization and other recognized organizations in the colleges. By targeting these leaders, we hoped to encourage them to use their influence to encourage many more people to participate in the MDA.

The awareness raising and campus engagement campaign started on the May 20 and ran until May 31. In that time, the END7 USL team of student leaders visited eight colleges in Freetown. We started at the Milton Margai College of Education and Technology, Congo Cross campus. The END7 USL team met with the student governor, Dean of Campus, Mr. Umaru Bah and students in various classes of the college to educate students about LF and the importance of the MDA.

Next, at Milton Margai College of Education and Technology, Goderich, the END7 USL team met with the student Union President Bilal Afiz Kabba, Ag. Registrar of the college, Mr. Sherifu Bangura, the Vice-Principal of the College, Dr. Tabita, and students gathered at the college hall. END7 students raised awareness and educated the students about the MDA. The END7 team also advocated to the Vice-Principal to include NTDs in the college curriculum.

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The END7 USL team meets with students in a college hall to educate them about the MDA

At Liccsal Business College, the END7 USL team met with the Vice-Principal Dr. Roland Buck, the Assistant Director of student’s affairs, Ibrahim Bangura, and Mr. Benjamin Lebbie, as well as many students of the college.

Then, the END7 team visited the Wilberforce Community Health Center to encourage community health workers based there to treat the students in the surrounding colleges during the MDA. We wanted to make sure that all of our peers would have the chance to receive the drugs they need to stay safe and healthy.

Next, at Freetown Teachers College, the END7 team met with the Registrar, M.I. Sesay, and met with students at the college hall to raise awareness and educate them about the MDA and elephantiasis. At Njala University Freetown, END7 students met with the Deputy Registrar, Christiana Pearce, and visited students in their classes.

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Students gave presentations on LF to encourage students to participate in the MDA.

At the University of Sierra Leone College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences, after raising awareness about the MDA, END7 student leaders actually assisted in the distribution of the drugs on campus, working with the pharmacy board team to distribute the drugs to administrative staff at the college.

When we visited the University of Sierra Leone Institute of Public Administration and Management, they were in the middle of their examination period, which made it more difficult to reach students with our message. So, we spoke to administrative staff and students who were around on campus.  Then, we traveled to Parliament Hospital to advocate for the MDA team there to visit the IPAM campus clinic. We succeeded in bringing the MDA team to treat students at IPAM, but unfortunately, when they arrived on campus, students were not around because of the examination period.

Fourah Bay College was also in the middle of an examination period when our team visited campus, so we made use of the public address system at the nearby airport terminal that was playing the message of the MDA, and met with some administrative staff and students in their classrooms.

In addition to our campus visits, END7 USL was also involved in media outreach to promote the MDA. As president of END7 USL, I was interviewed on a program on Star Television Network to raise awareness of LF and educate Sierra Leoneans about the MDA.

Ishamel being interviewed on the Star Television Network

Ishamel being interviewed on the Star Television Network

The END7 USL team faced a few challenges during the social mobilization campaign, as this was the first time we planned activities to support an MDA. One of our greatest challenge was advocating to community health workers to take drugs to the colleges so university students could participate in the MDA. Eighty percent of the colleges we visited were treated during the MDA, but this still leaves many students without access to treatment. We will continue our activities to raise awareness of these important public health campaigns, encourage our peers and fellow community members to participate, and advocate to make sure everyone has the chance to be part of MDA campaigns so Sierra Leone can end NTDs for good.

We want to offer special thanks to Hellen Keller International, Sierra Leone for providing the funding and support for us to carry out our social mobilization and campus engagement activities, and a big thank you to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation District Health Management Team for a successful MDA!

Follow END7 USL on Facebook to learn more about their work and see more pictures from their campaign, and check out END7’s Success Stories Factsheet on Sierra Leone to learn more about progress being made against NTDs in the country. If you’re a student looking to get involved in the fight against NTDs, check out our ideas and resources!

END7 Funds NTD Projects Around the World

This spring, we awarded nearly $400,000 in new grants for neglected tropical disease (NTD) control and elimination activities in 2016.

This funding is made possible by generous donations to END7, an international advocacy campaign that seeks to raise the awareness and funding necessary to control and eliminate the seven most common NTDs. The campaign is managed by the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases and 100% of donations to the END7 campaign go straight to NTD programs. Donations to Sabin Foundation Europe, a partner of the U.S.-based Sabin Vaccine Institute and the Global Network also helped make these grants possible.

The grants will make a significant impact in supporting integrated NTD programs in six countries. All projects are coordinated with Ministries of Health and/or the World Health Organization in each country. Many of the projects include mass drug administration (MDA) for the most common NTDs and training of health care workers. These projects are expected to benefit nearly six million individuals at risk from NTDs and train tens of thousands of health workers and volunteers to lead the NTD control and elimination effort into the future.

Awarded to existing efforts that faced a funding gap, these projects will have a lasting impact on improving and expanding existing programs to reach ambitious NTD control and elimination goals in Africa, Asia and Latin America – the regions with the largest NTD burden:

Nigeria
$50,000 to support integrated MDA for seven NTDs, administered by Sightsavers with the support of the Federal and Kebbi State Ministries of Health. Nearly 5.9 million people will receive donated medicine in Kebbi state, in northwest Nigeria, where all seven NTDs are widespread. Sightsavers will continue their successful MDA in the region and expand to new areas.

Somalia
$66,200 to support the first integrated MDA in five regions of southwestern Somalia by the new NTD Program of the Ministry of Health and Human Services. The MDA will target schistosomiasis (snail fever), ascariasis (roundworm), hookworm and trichuriasis (whipworm) among school-age children and adults in areas of high prevalence. The NTD Programme was established in 2015; success this year will help scale up the delivery of donated medicine to the rest of the country.

Cote d’Ivoire
$28,789 to support water, sanitation and hygiene education to prevent NTDs in Cote d’Ivoire, administered by Helen Keller International. More than 7,000 health workers, school teachers and community health volunteers will be trained to reach more than 2.5 million people.

Guyana
$111,146 to support MDA to eliminate lymphatic filariasis in the most populous region of the country, administered by the Pan American Health Organization and the Ministry of Public Health. Guyana is on track to eliminate lymphatic filariasis (also known as elephantiasis) by 2020. These funds were raised for END7 by the Sabin City Group in London.

India
$60,546 to assist a local NGO, Churches Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA), to expand their successful efforts to treat and prevent lymphatic filariasis to West Bengal. This grant will enable CASA to train community members to manage the swelling and disability that often results from later stages of lymphatic filariasis. Each infected patient will receive a hygiene kit with soap, a towel and antifungal ointment and be shown how to care for themselves to reduce swelling. CASA will also promote the government’s annual MDA targeting 500,000 people for lymphatic filariasis treatment in West Bengal.

Myanmar
$75,645 to assist the Department of Public Health to determine where MDA for lymphatic filariasis has succeeded and can be concluded. Nine districts with a population of nearly 7 million have already conducted more than five rounds of MDA for lymphatic filariasis. Officials will determine whether transmission has been interrupted.

The Global Network team reviewed 37 proposals from a range of partners tackling NTDs around the world and selected projects with the potential to have the most lasting impact, leverage further investment and bolster country-led efforts to eliminate NTDs.

To date the Global Network has awarded more than US$1 million in grants to 19 partners. From individual donors contributing $5 a month to student groups raising $10,000 over the course of a school year, the END7 campaign has mobilized a diverse and growing community of supporters from countries around the world dedicated to supporting the fight against NTDs. Together, these contributions are moving the NTD elimination effort forward by helping communities set up treatment programs they can run themselves. END7 supporters fill funding gaps in successful NTD treatment programs, highlighting the tremendous impact of this inexpensive treatment and the power of partnership in the fight against NTDs.

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Best Foot Forward: Eliminating a Neglected Tropical Disease

Podo

An unknown among unknown diseases, podoconiosis (podo for short) is a devastating type of elephantiasis spread by long-term exposure to minerals found in volcanic soil. Unlike lymphatic filariasis, podo is not infectious. Podo has been reported in more than 15 countries across Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America, and affects more than 4 million people in highland tropical Africa.

A three-minute animated video, “Best Foot Forward,” depicts the source, treatment and prevention of podo. The video was created by Footwork: The International Podoconiosis Initiative, in partnership with Ripple Effect Images, a group of National Geographic contributing photojournalists, to raise awareness of this neglected disease.

As the video movingly illustrates, subsistence farmers in remote rural areas contract this devastating disease while working barefoot. Podo causes progressive swelling of the lower legs and makes it difficult to walk. In addition to physical suffering, superstitions about the causes of podo lead to shaming and even banishing of podo sufferers, particularly women.

Yet, podo is treatable. Podo’s severe swelling can be significantly reduced with simple hygiene. Low-cost foot care and shoes can ameliorate symptoms and prevent the occurrence of podo. Funding is urgently needed to support these treatments and educate local populations about prevention.

To learn more about Footwork and podo, visit www.podo.org.


Best Foot Forward
from Ripple Effect Images on Vimeo.

About Footwork
Footwork: The International Podoconiosis Initiative is a project of New Venture Fund, a 501(c) 3 public charity. Our vision is a world free of podoconiosis in our lifetime. Our mission is to bring together public and private partners to support prevention and treatment of, and advocacy for, podoconiosis. Footwork is active in Ethiopia, Cameroon and Uganda. It encourages integration of podoconiosis control into efforts to eliminate other NTDs, and works with organizations active in other related diseases of the foot and leg.

Celebrating NTD Success Stories: Sierra Leone’s Inspiring Progress in the Face of Ebola

Community health officer Hawa Margai speaks about onchocerciasis to a group of women gathered at the Levuma community health center in the town of Levuma, Sierra Leone on Friday July 13, 2012.

Community health officer Hawa Margai speaks about onchocerciasis to a group of women at the Levuma community health center.

During the month of October, END7 student supporters are celebrating NTD Success Stories from four countries — Haiti, India, Sierra Leone and the Philippines — that have overcome incredible obstacles to make progress towards NTD control and elimination. This week’s success story comes from Sierra Leone, where inspiring efforts are being made to fight NTDs in the wake of the Ebola epidemic.

Six NTDs are found in all 14 health districts in Sierra Leone, threatening nearly the entire population of the country. Sierra Leone faces many health and development challenges, but the government has exerted strong leadership in the fight against NTDs. By 2004, the national NTD program had successfully mapped the prevalence of targeted NTDs nationwide, and in 2005 they launched a mass drug administration (MDA) campaign to treat every at-risk community with the participation of nearly 30,000 volunteer community drug distributors. Supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health had distributed more than 57 million NTD treatments nationwide by the beginning of 2014. As a result of these efforts, the country was on track to begin the World Health Organization process of verifying the elimination of lymphatic filariasis (LF) in eight of 14 health districts in 2014. Unfortunately, when the West African Ebola epidemic reached Sierra Leone in May of that year, all public health program activities were suspended as the country raced to stop the spread of Ebola. As a result, the Sierra Leone NTD Program was unable to carry out MDA in 2014, interrupting progress towards LF elimination.

But today, the government of Sierra Leone and partner organizations are working hard make up for lost time. In May of 2015, on the heels of nationwide malaria and vaccination campaigns, MDA restarted in Sierra Leone. Just this month, from October ninth to 13th, 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).

The relaunch of MDA this year required careful preparation, including refresher training session for community drug distributors and program administrators. Extensive social mobilization campaigns, aimed at educating communities still reeling from the Ebola epidemic about the importance of participating in MDA, were conducted through community meetings and radio spots. As a result of this careful preparation, early indications are that Sierra Leone’s 2015 MDAs have been successful.

The consistent key to Sierra Leone’s inspiring success tackling NTDs before and after the Ebola epidemic has been the leadership and commitment of volunteer community drug distributors. Elected by their communities, these volunteers reach the most remote corners of the country, enabling Sierra Leone to consistently achieve treatment coverage above 75 percent in targeted communities.

Given Sierra Leone’s small geographic size, the strong political support of the government and the commitment of the volunteer community drug distributors who form the backbone of MDA programs, the country is in the unique position to become one of the first countries in Africa to control snail fever and intestinal worms and eliminate river blindness and elephantiasis. Sierra Leone’s NTD program has also successfully demonstrated that MDA can be achieved in highly populated urban settings. But additional support is needed. By integrating NTD treatment with schools and other health programs, millions of people at risk for NTDs can live free of these diseases of poverty and their devastating effects including malnutrition, disability, social stigmatization and a loss of productivity.

Sierra Leone’s progress against NTDs despite the challenges posed by the Ebola epidemic should inspire other countries to redouble their efforts to address these diseases. Now more than ever, support for robust public health efforts like Sierra Leone’s NTD Program is needed to build on this impressive progress. END7 supporters are eager to celebrate Sierra Leone’s progress and look forward to celebrating more milestones as the country moves closer to its ultimate goal of controlling and eliminating NTDs.