Category Archives: Africa

Eliminating Neglected Tropical Diseases: My Role as a Student

Students from around the world wrote essays as part of their application for leadership positions with END7 for the upcoming academic year. Two students were awarded scholarships to attend the Millennium Campus Conference in Washington, DC. We are publishing the best essays on our blog during the Millennium Campus Conference this week. Runner-up Gerald Oyeki of Makere University (Kampala, Uganda) wrote this essay in response to the prompt “How do you think students and young people can be agents of meaningful change contributing to the fight against NTDs?:”

By Gerald Oyeki
Makere University (Kampala, Uganda)

Nelson Mandela, one of Africa’s greatest statesmen quoted, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ Students and young people constitute the most significant medium of change, transformation and generational growth, given that they are sources of energy, charisma and fountains of knowledge and innovation. Thus, their contribution in addressing global crises plays a pivotal role.

END7 is an international advocacy campaign that seeks to raise the awareness and funding necessary to control and eliminate the seven most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), which are a group of chronic and debilitating conditions, caused by parasitic and bacterial infections, by 2020.  These diseases include elephantiasis, river blindness, snail fever, trachoma, roundworm and hookworm. They are mainly poverty-driven and are most prevalent in the poorest populations in the world in Asia, Latin America and Africa, with women and children who live in unsanitary environments facing the biggest threats. Such areas have little access to clean water or proper ways to dispose of human waste which are predisposing factors for the occurrence of these diseases. Neglected tropical diseases impair physical and cognitive development, contribute to maternal and child illness and death, and make it difficult to farm or earn a living – thus, the drive to end extreme poverty may not yield fruit if they are not dealt with.

According to the United Nations Human Development Report 2007/2008, Sub-Saharan Africa faces a serious threat for the occurrence and spread of NTDs and thus the urgency for action cannot be ignored. This has led to several integrated efforts to combat the diseases including mass sensitization and education, improvement of basic water, sanitation and hygiene, and mass drug administration as strategies pursued by various stakeholders, policy makers, implementers, funders and the society at large. For instance, in Uganda, the “One Health” concept appreciates and acknowledges that animal health, human health and the environment are a united system that cannot be independent of each other, and that the wellbeing of humans has got a significant dependence on the health of animals and the environment. This has facilitated the fight against zoonotic diseases, like rabies and soil-transmitted helminthes. Programs like the USAID NTD program, the Makerere University College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity and College of Health Sciences, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Industry and Fisheries have taken lead roles in the fight against these diseases to support Uganda’s goal of eliminating lymphatic filariasis and blinding trachoma by 2020.

However, the fight to end NTDs is still yet to be accomplished with a number of challenges like low awareness of these diseases, low education levels, and financial constraints for treatment programs. To address these challenges, engaging young people will be key. According to the 2014 United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) ‘State of the world’ report, Sub-Saharan African countries have a disproportionally large youth cohort. In fifteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa, half the population is under age 18. UNFPA’s review of youth-related policies in these countries suggest that the vast majority have committed to investments in youth-related initiatives and recognize their importance. Students and the youth population are in a strong position to create awareness NTDs and how they can be treated and prevented, actively participate in mass drug administration campaigns, influence government policy and priorities towards funding and fighting NTDs through advocacy led by student clubs and associations. One example of a group that could lead this effort is the One Health Students Club at Makerere University College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity, for which I serve as speaker emeritus. Our group carries out mass vaccination of animals, most commonly dogs, against zoonotic diseases like rabies (an NTD). The Acholi Students Union, for which I’m currently speaker, engages in mass sensitization of the Acholi ethnic group through radio talk shows, school visits and community outreach, which could be directed towards NTD education. Students can also engage in fundraising drives to boost resources for the fight against NTDs. Furthermore, students can advance NTD research at their universities.

The Millennium Campus Conference is a rich platform for me to use my oratory and leadership skills to interact with peers involved in international development, share knowledge, and convince student leaders from other parts of the world, of all different backgrounds – from both low, middle, and high income countries – of the urgency to eliminate NTDs, and how an integrated global youth approach could help accomplish this goal.

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.

Donate to END7

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.