Category Archives: Africa

Towards a Less Wormy World

 

By Nina Cromeyer Dieke*

Nigeria is – by far – Africa’s most populous nation. It recently came to light that it is the continent’s biggest economy. It also has the highest burden of NTDs in all of Africa. Therefore, when an opportunity arose in late 2013 to run our GIS training course in Abuja, we were very excited and quickly set about preparing the materials.

Nina presenting at GAHI's Modern Tools for NTD Control Programmes training

GAHI’s Jenny Smith presents on modern tools for NTD control programmes.

Part of my job as communications manager for the Global Atlas of Helminth Infections (GAHI) team at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) is the coordination of our five-day course on Modern Tools for NTD Control Programmes. The course is part of GAHI’s capacity building efforts and is aimed at data and programme managers who wish to use geographic information systems (GIS) and mapping to better target their deworming and NTD control plans. The course first took place in Nairobi in May 2013, with 18 participants from 7 African countries. One of the participants was Dr. Obiageli Nebe, the Nigerian Ministry of Health’s National Coordinator for STH and schistosomiasis. We were very pleased to hear, just a few months later, that Dr. Nebe successfully advocated for the course to run in Abuja, a feat that materialised in January 2014 with 21 participants from Nigeria’s FMOH and NGO’s.

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The group of participants from GAHI’s five-day course on Modern Tools for NTD Control Programmes

After a great visit to Nigeria, the year continued to bode well for GAHI with the re-launch of our website. Still on www.thiswormyworld.org, we now have a brand new design that makes searching for maps, data and our training resources much easier, including the interactive NTD Mapping Tool. We also have a new research section with information about our ongoing work, in addition to mapping. We’re very excited about our new look!

One of the great new additions to the website is maps (and their data) showing water supply and sanitation (WSS) coverage in Sub-Saharan Africa. These are the result of a recent paper in PLOS Medicine, led by GAHI’s Rachel Pullan with Matt Freeman at Emory University, Pete Gething at Oxford, and GAHI’s Simon Brooker. The study found stark in-country inequalities in access to water and sanitation, as well as in practicing open defecation. Demonstrated inequalities for some example countries include a 33.0% to 99.5% range in district-level coverage of improved drinking water in Benin, and a 13.8% to 93.6% range in open defecation in Burkina Faso. We recognise the important links between good WSS access and NTD control, and this type of multidisciplinary research to understand the context of control is increasingly a part of our work.

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It’s been a busy year for us so far, but we’re not alone. I’m thrilled by the ever growing momentum around NTD control and elimination, most recently demonstrated at the Uniting to Combat NTDs meeting in Paris. New funding commitments and increasing multi-sector partnerships are getting us closer to 2020 goals, in countries large and small.

Follow GAHI on Twitter, @ThisWormyWorld

*Nina Cromeyer Dieke is the communications manager at Global Atlas of Helminth Infections

The Power of Partnerships: Increasing Investments in WASH for Poverty Reduction

 

President John Kufuor presents his keynote address

President John Kufuor presents his keynote address
Credit: Tetra Tech

This week, the former President of the Republic of Ghana and the Global Network’s Special Envoy for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), John A. Kufuor, joined partners from the U.S. government, NGO community and private sector to discuss ways to increase access to improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

Because NTDs many are transmitted through dirty water, poor hygiene and sanitation, infinite opportunities exist for partners from the WASH and NTD communities to work together to create healthier and more prosperous communities – a point highlighted by President Kufuor during his remarks.

“I am confident that we can do much more to reach the most impoverished people around the globe by increasing WASH and health investments and coordinating our individual efforts. Sustainable and effective development rests on the future of integrated programs that take advantage of existing synergies, partnerships and shared resources.”

Further emphasizing the night’s theme of partnerships, the event was hosted by a wide range of organizations  including the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases/Sabin Vaccine Institute, InterAction, Tetra Tech, the Millennium Water Alliance, WaterAid and WASH Advocates. Attendees, hosts and speakers were able to chat, network and share their experiences before the featured presentations.

Participants from the event chat with President Kufuor

Global Network’s Managing Director, Neeraj Mistry, opened the event by encouraging the WASH and NTD communities to find cross-cutting points of convergence between these two sectors.

“In times of resource scarcity, we need to make the most of what we have,” he said.

Sam Worthington, President and CEO of InterAction, moderated the discussion. He also emphasized the opportunity to initiate WASH and NTD partnerships right here in D.C., and highlighted the role of InterAction as a platform for bringing people together.

Next, President John Kufuor delivered his keynote address, in which he spoke first-hand about the impact of poor WASH, Guinea worm and other NTDs on the people of Ghana.

“The pain from Guinea worm—like many other high-burden NTDs—would prevent Ghanaians from attending school, tending livestock or working in their fields for weeks at a time and in some cases, permanently.  It often forced children to fall behind in their studies and adults to lose their jobs. “

However, Ghana was able to eliminate Guinea worm after promoting awareness of the disease, training WASH and health workers, and expanding access to clean water in rural areas, Kufuor explained. In addition, support from the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) enabled Ghana to improve clean water and health in the country.

In closing, Kufuor emphasized the need for collaboration with an African proverb: “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. It is only together that we can create a healthy future free of poverty. “

guests watch President Kufuor's speech

David Baxter of Tetra Tech’s Institute of Public Private Partnerships, Apollos Nwafor of WaterAid West Africa, Jonathan Nash, the Deputy Acting Vice President of the MCC and Christian Holmes, Global Water Coordinator from USAID all presented unique perspectives regarding the power of partnerships in achieving health goals.

David Baxter highlighted Tetra Tech and the private sector perspective on forging public-private partnerships to increase access to WASH. As David explained, Tetra Tech develops innovative WASH solutions in partnership with NGOs and governments. He noted that institutional capacity building is essential to sustaining gains made from WASH and NTD efforts.

Apollos Nwafor followed with a powerful declaration that everyone everywhere should have access to WASH by 2030, and partnerships will help us get there. He also stressed the importance of public-private partnerships that are pro-poor and inclusive to those who may be otherwise excluded or marginalized.

John Nash and Chris Holmes closed the event, providing a U.S. government perspective. John noted that the MCC works with nongovernmental partners on each and every project in which they invest. Chris Holmes echoed the importance of partnerships and reinforced the need to embrace the private sector in order to accelerate WASH and NTD programs.

The presence of President Kufuor and so many dedicated WASH and NTD advocates at Wednesday night’s event was very encouraging.  Growing partnerships between the NTD and WASH sectors and the public and private sectors are contributing to healthier communities across the world, and the Global Network looks forward to advancing these efforts to ensure that universal access to WASH also equates to a world without NTDs.

To view photos from the event, click here.

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 doesn’t 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. END7’s celebrity ambassador, 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.

New Support for NTDs to Drive Progress Forward

 

photo 1NTDs

This afternoon, global health leaders convened in Paris to discuss progress made in the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The event, titled Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases: A Conversation on Progress, coincided with the release of a new report highlighting gains over the past two years.

Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization; Bill Gates, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and several other expert panelists including Chris Viehbacher, CEO of Sanofi;  Dr. Onésime Ndayishimiye, National Director of Burundi’s Neglected Tropical Disease & Blindness Control Program; and French Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Hon. Marisol Touraine, announced deepened commitments for efforts to control and eliminate the most common NTDs by 2020 — including a $120 million pledge from the World Bank, a new collaboration to combat soil-transmitted helminthes (STH) and accelerated research and development efforts lead by pharmaceutical companies in conjunction with nonprofits.

The broad reach and attention of today’s event signals the fact that controlling and eliminating NTDs is embraced by a global community of national leaders, policy makers and donors. In addition, there is broad recognition that addressing NTDs is a crucial component of eliminating poverty and achieving development goals.

Echoing this fact, Dr. Tim Evans, World Bank Director of Health, Nutrition and Population stated during the event that NTDs are major constraints to development and addressing them will boost shared prosperity.

As detailed in the Uniting to Combat NTDs report and score card, progress on NTDs has accelerated quickly over the past two years. Pharmaceutical companies are now meeting 100 percent of requests for drugs, and endemic countries taking ownership of NTD programs. To date, 74 countries – roughly two-thirds of all NTD-endemic countries – have now developed national plans to help guide their control and elimination efforts.

Of particular note, Nigeria and Ethiopia, two countries with high NTD burdens, made national commitments to end NTDs. Nigeria launched its master NTD plan in February with the goal of providing treatment to more than 60 million people annually over the next five years. Ethiopia, the country with the highest trachoma burden, launched its national plan in June 2013. Success in Nigeria and Ethiopia would significantly decrease the global burden of NTDs worldwide.

Pages from NTD Report Final (sm)These positive gains are cause for optimism, but challenges still remain. While the chart to the left (click to view larger) shows a steady increase in drug donation and delivery, only 36 percent of people in need received all the drugs they needed in 2012. Mobilizing more financial resources to support program implementation, doing more to leverage the value of donated drugs and increasing collaboration across sectors are just a few ways the global community can further accelerate progress.

While donors, pharmaceuticals and NGOs are an integral part of the solution, endemic countries will drive progress forward by continuing to develop, own and implement their programs in a sustainable way.

“I always believe in country ownership,” Dr. Margaret Chan said. “We’re here to support your efforts.”

We applaud the work done by endemic countries, NGOs, pharmaceutical companies, multilateral organizations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and look forward to the path towards 2020.

Click to view the event video and full report.