Category Archives: hookworm

Artfully Bringing Stories of Neglected Tropical Diseases to Life

 

Update: We’re happy to share the news that Shelly Xie was recently awarded the 2013 ASTMH Communications Award

There are several ways to describe the impact of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) on millions of families worldwide. But this may be one of the most artful and poetic we’ve seen.

Last week, medical student and artist Shelly Xie showcased two sand animations that thoughtfully illustrated stories of families infected with hookworm and Chagas disease at the Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) 52nd Directing Council. Shelly’s poetic narration, mixed with moving music and sand drawings, gave these complex stories life.

Shelly’s first animation tells the story of a Brazilian family. Maria, Antonio and their daughter Francisca contract hookworm – a parasitic disease which leaves them sick, tired and unable to work, go to school or take care of their crops.  This story is illustrative of the broader burden NTDs have on millions of Latin American and Caribbean families. Over 13.8 million preschool and 31 million school age children are at risk of hookworm and other parasitic intestinal worms.

Shelly’s second animation tells the story of a young couple in Argentina who contracts Chagas disease. After being bit by the Triatomine bug, both the husband and wife become too sick to work and take care of their livestock. Even worse, the mother is expecting a child who now has a chance of contracting Chagas disease as well. After a week, the couple begins to feel better – but what they don’t know is the side-effects of Chagas disease could lead to an enlarged colon and esophagus, or even heart failure in the years to come. It is estimated that 10 to 11 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean are living with Chagas, Shelly explains.

Shelly’s animations are part of PAHO’s Art Research Project – a program that works with different sectors of society to show how we can all have an impact on global health efforts. Her unique and artistic messaging has the power to include an even wider audience in NTD advocacy and awareness efforts worldwide.

Public Health: Some Promising News from Timor

 

image_1

Photo by Peter McMinn

 

Re-posted with permission from Peter McMinn of the Lowy Institute for International Policy.

The relationship between Timor-Leste and Indonesia has improved steadily since the independence referendum in 1999. Indonesia is now one of Timor-Leste’s key trade partners and has strongly supported its application for membership of ASEAN. The two countries are also working toward settling border disputes that have been unresolved for many years.

This mood of cooperation is also working in the health sector.

Since Timor-Leste regained its independence, public health officials in Dili and Indonesian West Timor have faced substantial challenges in regard to the control of tropical infections which have an enormous impact on the health of already marginalised populations. Diseases such as lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis), intestinal worm infections (especially hookworm) and yaws are highly prevalent across the island of Timor and cause chronic disfigurement, disability and death.

Elimination of these diseases can be achieved by mass drug administration (MDA) to affected populations (target 75-80%) annually for a period of 5-7 years. Such a program requires high levels of coordination and cooperation by health officials and the engagement of affected communities.

Efforts to free the developing world from these and other tropical infections received a boost in 1998, when the World Health Assembly resolved to eliminate them globally by 2020. The chances of doing so were greatly enhanced when a consortium of pharmaceutical companies pledged to donate the drugs required to treat these infections free of charge to all countries participating in the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Elimination Program.

Many countries have now commenced this program with support from the WHO, pharmaceutical companies, the Gates Foundation and other donors. However, it has not begun in Timor-Leste and has been interrupted in Indonesian Timor due to low capacity in the health workforce and a lack of donor support. The situation has been complicated by the recurrence of conflict in Timor-Leste and the logistical challenges involved in bringing together teams to work across national borders.

In December 2011 the Timor-Leste Minister of Health signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) on cross-border cooperation for public health with the Indonesian Minister of Health in Jakarta and with the Governor of Nusa Tengara Timur (NTT) Province in Kupang, West Timor, both vital steps in implementing the program. Under the latter MOU it was agreed that the Government of Timor-Leste and the Indonesian Provincial Government of NTT would cooperate to monitor and implement shared public health challenges. This cross-border cooperation is particularly important for the East Timorese enclave of Oecusse, which is completely surrounded by Indonesian territory.

The program is scheduled to commence in 2014. A senior public health expert from the Ministry of Health in Jakarta has recently assisted the Timor-Leste Ministry of Health to develop a detailed program implementation plan that includes cross-border cooperation on disease surveillance and information sharing on the progress of program implementation. Furthermore, a public health official from NTT will be invited to join the Task Force and vice versa.

Cross-border cooperation will be critically important during the post-MDA enhanced surveillance program to verify disease elimination and to ensure that Timor Island can be certified free of these diseases by the WHO in the shortest possible time. Such collaboration represents a practical example of cross-border cooperation that is of mutual public health benefit for Indonesia and Timor-Leste.

 

Professor Peter McMinn from the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre leads a program to help Timor-Leste’s health ministry implement the Lymphatic Filariasis, Hookworm and Yaws Elimination Program.

A Big Opportunity to Shine in Honduras

 

Over the past few months, we’ve been working together with our partners in Honduras to promote and accelerate their leadership in preventing and treating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

In Honduras, where over two million preschool and school-age children are at-risk for infection with intestinal worms, a working group of three government ministries is mounting an impressive effort to put an end to these parasitic infections.

That includes reaching mothers like Cleotilde Acosta and her four children who were so sick with intestinal worms that they could barely eat or sleep.

In 2012, Honduras was the first country in Latin America and the Caribbean to launch a national integrated plan for NTD control and elimination. Since then, treatment for intestinal worms has increased by 55 percent, and families like Cleotilde’s have received the care they need.

Our partners in Honduras want to expand this successful initiative to help many more families and have asked END7 to help fill a funding gap for their school-based deworming program, Escuelas Saludables. Later this summer, the Honduras Ministry of Health and its partners are hoping to reach 1.4 million kids – ages 5 to 14 – in more than 20,000 schools.

The pills to treat against intestinal worms are already available, thanks to the terrific support and partnership of the World Food Programme and Operation Blessing.  But, it will take further efforts to ensure these pills reach those in need. In particular, teachers, other community members and school children who will receive health education materials and necessary training.

You can help us reach our goal  – every $1 helps. Click here to visit END7’s donation page.

The next campaign will take place over just five days in August.  More than 1 million kids in five days! It’s a big opportunity for Honduras to shine.

Read more about the last Honduras deworming campaign on PAHO/WHO’s website.

School children in Honduras

School children in Honduras, April 2013

The Neglected Egyptian Protest

About two years ago around this time, crowds of protest movements were enveloping the Middle East and North Africa. Protestors were coming together to work towards better representation of people that had the capacity to serve the larger population, rather than the upper elite. In Egypt, particularly about two years ago around this time, the former President of Egypt of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, was forced to step down.

The Middle East region includes about 20 countries, with almost 400 million people living within its span. Of this population, about 65 million people live on less than $2 US dollars a day. Egypt has the largest number of people living in poverty in the Middle East, with 18 percent out of 80.4 million living on less than US$2 per day. Loose labor laws, a lack of strong physical infrastructure and a weakened sense of social justice amounted to an overwhelming amount of unsatisfied civilians that took to Tahrir Square in 2011 and have since been fighting for their just representation by government officials.

Economic burdens and restraints, like those that have affected a large portion of Egypt’s population, not only lead to inequality of employment, resources and infrastructure, but they can also eventually lead to the regression of physical health. When you have such a large population living in under-privileged circumstances, people walk a very thin line of safety when it comes to health services. It may not have stood out as a single issue that raised headlines during the protests, but the lack of policy that suppressed the spread of diseases is also a result of government neglect.

Continue reading