Category Archives: Africa

With END7 Support, Nigeria Reaches More Communities at Risk for NTDs

 

Photo by MITOSATH

Photo by MITOSATH

All seven of the most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are found in Nigeria. With an estimated 100 million people at risk for at least one NTD, Nigeria has the highest burden in Africa.

While Nigeria has a multi-year plan to control or eliminate the seven most common NTDs by 2020 –additional resources are still needed to reach all communities at risk of contracting NTDs.

To support Nigeria’s NTD efforts, the END7 campaign donated $84,000 towards MITOSATH, a Nigerian nonprofit organization that works to control and eliminate NTDs within the country. Specifically, END7 funds supported MITOSATH’s efforts in Bauchi State.

Thanks to the generosity of END7 supporters, more than 2,500 school teachers, community drug distributors and health facility staff members were trained on how to carry out a mass drug administration (MDA). END7 funds also supported MITOSATH’s efforts to increase awareness among community members about NTDs.

In total, these combined efforts ensured the treatment of more than 740,000 people in three Local Government Areas (LGAs) within Bauchi state. Even more, 9,000 of these were school children who were treated for schistosomiasis and intestinal worms for the first time, signaling another step towards NTD control and elimination!

Photo by MITOSATH

Photo by MITOSATH

 

IMA Tanzania a Key Player in Massive National Vaccine and MDA Campaign

 

Image from IMA World Health

Image from IMA World Health

The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases is happy to share news from IMA World Health. A first of its kind for Tanzania, the national co-implemented immunization and mass drug administration strengthened the country’s integrated efforts to control and eliminate neglected tropical diseases. 

On Saturday, October 18, IMA World Health participated in a special event in Dodoma, Tanzania, to launch the 2014 national co-implemented immunization and mass drug administration (MDA) campaign to protect 21 million children against measles, rubella and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). One of the largest public health intervention efforts ever staged in Tanzania, the 2014 campaign will run from October 18-24.

The annual event was convened and attended by the Government of Tanzania, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and numerous other partners.

For the past four years, IMA has been MDA for NTDs in Tanzania through the USAID-funded ENVISION Project, led by RTI International. With over $5 million in annual support, IMA has distributed preventive treatment to more than 14 million people across 9 regions of Tanzania, as well as trained 5,000 health workers and over 10,000 community volunteers.

Jim Cox, Country Director for IMA Tanzania, commented in a speech at the October 18 event, “As IMA celebrates its 20th anniversary in Tanzania… we are proud to be part of this first-ever joint NTD and immunization campaign, which lays the groundwork for healthy communities throughout Tanzania.”

IMA works with the Tanzania Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) to support implementation of the integrated five-disease NTD control program targeting onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, trachoma, LF, and STH using MDA in the community and schools.

Photo from IMA World Health

Tearing Down the Roadblocks: Another Look at Building the Resilience of Smallholder Farmers

 

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As I drove home from the Baltimore-Washington International Airport earlier this month, I could not help but notice the electronic bulletins on the I-95 and Capitol Beltway that flashed “D.C. Event Aug 4-6, expect delays.” The event, of course, referred to the first ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, while the delays referred to the inevitable abundance of motorcades.

During the span of those three days, nearly 50 African heads of state gathered in Washington, D.C. for discussions with President Obama, administration officials and business leaders on a range of topics under the theme of “Investing in the Next Generation.” While we expected many roadblocks to be put up around D.C. that week, we were hoping that one major development roadblock would be pulled down during the Summit: neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

These parasitic and bacterial infections affect 1.4 billion people living in poor and marginalized communities around the world, particularly in agricultural populations. Once infected, poor communities remain impoverished due to resulting physical and mental disabilities, including blindness, anemia, immobility, delayed cognitive development and social stigma. NTDs leave children too sick to attend school and keep adults from working. And because NTDs destroy vital social and economic capital, controlling and eliminating these diseases must be an essential element of the emerging new Africa that is increasingly seeking growth through business opportunities.

Regretfully, NTDs and the roadblock they raise against productivity and prosperity were not prioritized at the Summit (outside of a mention in USAID’s press release about its major initiatives). While we were happy to see impressive new private-sector commitments to electricity and food security, particularly to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, the omission of NTDs from those conversations and commitments signaled a missed opportunity for US-Africa relations.

For example, over the past two years, private companies, philanthropists and governments have committed an astounding $10 billion for agriculture investments in Africa through the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. This initiative was launched in 2012 to build on the commitments made by G7/8 leaders to achieve sustained and inclusive agricultural growth, food security and good nutrition in the region over the next ten years.

While the New Alliance (and many other initiatives) is undeniably doing great work at strengthening the resilience of agricultural communities in Africa, fighting NTDs is an immediate and cost-effective opportunity that is available now to expand and strengthen these efforts. By working to reduce the incidence of NTDs in Africa, partners could positively impact the New Alliance’s same target areas, and more importantly, the poorest populations most affected by poor nutrition and food security.

Because Africa’s core agricultural workforce — smallholder subsistence farmers — are disproportionately affected by NTDs, the billions of dollars in agricultural investments made by governments and the private sector could be undermined if NTD control and elimination is not prioritized. In fact, smallholder farmers will be less productive and derive fewer benefits from New Alliance funding if NTDs are not addressed.

NTD infections also prevent people from enjoying the benefits of having access to a diverse, nutrient-rich diet. Roundworms, for example, compete with children for key nutrients and vitamins in order to grow. As a result, roundworm infections and other NTDs have serious consequences on a child’s growth and development, leading to micronutrient deficiencies, stunting and overall poor nutritional status.

Simply put, the New Alliance’s goals of achieving food security and good nutrition in Africa cannot be fully and sustainably achieved without addressing NTDs.

Many incredible (and highly cost-effective) victories have been won in the fight against NTDs, but greater investments are still needed to help smallholder farmers overcome the first basic roadblock to doing good business. Tackling NTDs truly helps communities invest in the next generation by offering them the opportunity to participate in their own sustainable solutions to poverty.

Watch for more information from the Global Network on the important linkages between NTDs and nutrition in the coming months!

Going Beyond Cooperation: Why it’s Critical for NTD Control and Elimination in Nigeria

 

Trachoma prevalence mapping in Katsina State by State Team of Examiner and Recorder on hand-held mobile device. Photo from RTI International.

Trachoma prevalence mapping in Katsina State by State Team of Examiner and Recorder on hand-held mobile device. Credit: RTI International.

The following guest blog post from Benjamin Nwobi, resident program advisor for RTI International and the ENVISION project in Nigeria, and Sunday Isiyaku, country director for Sightsavers in Nigeria and lead for the UNITED Project, details a new alliance aimed at strengthening Nigeria’s Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) program and maximizing the impact of resources directed at NTD control and elimination.

If we are to succeed in reaching the World Health Organization (WHO) NTD control and elimination targets for 2020, we must focus on Nigeria – a country with one of the highest NTD burdens in the world. We therefore commend the government of Nigeria for making NTDs a priority and working with partners to implement the national integrated NTD control and elimination plans. Such efforts have contributed to the eradication of guinea worm and will surely contribute to efforts such as the Saving One Million Lives Initiative.


 

It has been one hundred years since Nigeria’s independence and while much has changed through substantial development and investments, Nigeria’s rating against the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Health-Indicators still lags; maternal and child morbidity and mortality remain high and quality and affordable health services are either lacking or not readily accessible, especially for the 70 percent of Nigerians living on less than $2 a day.

It is not surprising then that Nigeria carries one of the highest burdens of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). These communicable diseases are inextricably linked with poverty and are prevalent in areas with poor sanitation, inadequate safe water supply and substandard housing conditions. In late March 2014, Nigeria and its partners celebrated the country receiving the WHO certification for officially eradicating Guinea worm disease. Nigeria had been the most endemic country in the world for guinea worm with over 800,000 cases documented. Scale-up efforts are now underway to achieve control and elimination of other high prevalence NTDs such as onchocerciasis, soil transmitted helminths (STH), schistosomiasis, trachoma and lymphatic filariasis (LF) by the year 2020.

An enormous task

An undertaking so ambitious requires unprecedented partnership and coordination. Nigeria is a federated country consisting of 36 states and 774 local government areas and each level of government plays a specific role in fighting NTDs. Implementing a national NTD programme that can effectively wipe out these diseases is an enormous task.

An estimated 31 million people are currently at risk for onchocerciasis across 32 states of the country. Though prevalence mapping is still underway, Nigeria is ranked third highest in the world for LF, with 63 million persons at risk, and is estimated to have one of the highest STH burdens in Africa. Trachoma is the second major cause of avoidable blindness in the northern part of Nigeria. Ongoing mapping efforts will provide more information on exactly which areas require treatment.

As Dr. Bridget Okoeguale, Director of Public Health at Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health so aptly expressed, “We must work as a team or we cannot go anywhere.”

Promoting standardization

This is why USAID’s ENVISION Project implemented by RTI International and the Carter Center, and DfID’s UNITED project, led by Sightsavers, are establishing a new working order to donor-driven support for the national NTD programme in Nigeria – an alliance, aimed at exploiting synergies, eliminating duplication of efforts and maximizing impact of resources directed at NTD control and elimination.

With ENVISION working primarily in central and southern Nigeria and UNITED in northern Nigeria, the alliance helps the national program to maintain consistency and promote standardization of approaches across the various states, supporting not only the integrity of programming but also management functions such as drug logistics and data reporting, playing off the respective strengths of the partner organisations.

Children in Nasarawa State, Nigeria gather to learn how samples will be collected in their school. Photo by RTI International.

Children in Nasarawa State, Nigeria gather to learn how samples will be collected in their school. Credit: RTI International

Maximizing reach and impact

Teams from ENVISION and UNITED support many of the same core programme areas in the states where they work; activities like mass drug administration and community education and sensitization. But each project also brings additional areas of support, not necessarily provided by the other project. Forming this alliance has allowed more geographic reach for this expertise than could be achieved otherwise.

RTI International has introduced a new planning tool, the NTD Tool for Integrated Planning and Costing (TIPAC) across the country, and this is now being used nationwide to improve planning and costing. RTI has also worked with the WHO to develop an integrated NTD database platform that will allow the country to store, manage, analyze and report NTD data more effectively across all states.

Sightsavers has been focusing on improving supply chain management for commodities such as drugs in its project states. The national-level component of this project supports clearing of all NTD drugs to the national Drug Storage. Again, in this case, all other states benefit from strengthened supply chain capacity and are therefore able to maximize output. They have also developed behaviour change tools and strategies that will be applied across Nigeria.

The synergies that have resulted from this close alliance bring unique benefits to Nigeria’s national NTD programme and its ability to advance towards its elimination timeline, especially when coupled with the comparative advantages for implementation achieved through the coalition of organisations working across the nation.

As we enter another century in Nigeria’s history as a country, we are hopeful that this alliance will continue to be one of the critical pillars in supporting the Nigerian Government in reducing the NTD burden. Together we will see how, when a country is committed and aid organisations and international governments synchronize and combine their efforts, ambitious goals can be achieved and the lives of Nigerians improved forever.