Category Archives: Latin America and the Caribbean

Ecuador Becomes Second Country in the World to Eliminate River Blindness

 

With help from the Carter Center and the Pan American Health Organization, Ecuador has officially become the second country in the world to achieve elimination of onchocerciasis (river blindness).

To eliminate onchocerciasis in Ecuador, the country had to overcome a major obstacle — Simulium exiguum; the main vector in Ecuador is exceptional at transmitting the disease. Ecuador’s Ministry of Health had been distributing medication in the country since 1990 — halting distribution in 2010 after transmission of the disease was successfully interrupted.

Watch a video from the Carter Center to see how treatment reached some of the most remote communities in Ecuador:

Ecuador is the second country in the world to receive verification from the World Health Organization in eliminating onchocerciasis after Colombia in 2013. The next challenge being undertaken in the fight against onchocerciasis in the Americas is addressing the disease in the scattered and migratory Yanomani population who live in the border area between Venezuela and Brazil.

Read the Pan American Health Organization’s press release here.

Inter-American Development Bank’s Documentary Highlights “Big Foot” in Guyana

 

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“I’ve had [lymphatic filariasis] for 18 years” said Bernadette Seenarine –a long time resident of Georgetown, Guyana who operates a small grocery shop from her home. In the short video titled “Tackling ‘Big Foot’: A Story of Sanitation and Health in Guyana”, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) shines light on how lymphatic filariasis (LF) is negatively affecting communities in Guyana, one of four countries in the Americas where transmission of LF still occurs. Seenarine is one of an estimated 68,000 people –approximately 9 percent of Guyana’s population—assumed to have been infected with LF. In Guyana, it is estimated that 310,000 people are at risk of contracting the disease.

Lymphatic filariasis (LF)—also known as “big foot” in Guyana—is a debilitating neglected tropical disease (NTD) caused by microfilaria, a tiny parasite that causes the disease. In Georgetown, Guyana, the disease is predominately spread by the culex mosquito, the vector for the parasitic worm that causes LF. Due to the frequent flooding that occurs in Georgetown and its lack of adequate drainage and sewer systems, large pools of contaminated and stagnant water are formed throughout the city. These pools of water act as breeding grounds for culex mostiqutoes who transmit the LF disease to humans.

LF is extremely painful and causes profound swelling of the legs that can lead to permanent disability. People living with this disease also suffer from financial and social loses and can become stigmatized. “Sometimes people don’t want to come and buy when I have this foot,” Seenarine said when explaining how her swollen leg has caused people from her community to stop buying food from her grocery store. “…It’s really difficult to live with this.”

To tackle this problem, the Latin American and the Caribbean Neglected Tropical Disease Initiative (LAC NTD Initiative)—a partnership that includes the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Global Network for Neglected Tropical Disease—are working to scale-up efforts to control and eliminate NTDs within the LAC regions, including Guyana. These efforts include implementing joint community-based deworming campaigns for LF in Guyana’s capital of Georgetown, in addition to integrating social mobilization campaigns to educate Guyana’s population about LF treatment, transmission and prevention. The LAC NTD Initiative is also working to improve the infrastructure of Georgetown’s sewage system to reduce risk factors of contracting LF.

The Sabin City Group, a collaborative partnership with corporate institutions in the United Kingdom and the UK charity Sabin Foundation Europe, is also contributing in the fight to eliminate LF in Guyana by recently launching the group’s ‘Guyana campaign’. The campaign’s goal is to raise funding to support NTD programs in Guyana in an effort to eliminate LF by 2016.

To learn more about NTD projects carried out in the LAC region, we invite you to read this published report titled “It Can be Done: An Integrated Approach for Controlling and Eliminating Neglected Tropical Diseases”. We also encourage you to watch IDB’s documentary on LF in Guyana and the work that is being done to control and eliminate the disease.

New Report: The Neglected Tropical Disease Initiative in Latin America on the Effectiveness of Integrated NTD Programs

 

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While major gains have been made in the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), the Latin American and Caribbean region’s most poor and marginalized populations still suffer from the pain, disability and social exclusion associated with NTDs — diseases which have been successfully controlled in higher income countries.

However, the Latin America and the Caribbean Neglected Tropical Disease Initiative (LAC NTD Initiative), a partnership between the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Pan American health Organization (PAHO) and Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, is proving that the control and elimination of NTDs within the region is possible and within reach.

In a recently-published report, titled It Can be Done: An Integrated Approach for Controlling and Eliminating Neglected Tropical Diseases, the IDB draws upon four NTD demonstration projects to provide lessons learned in integrated NTD control projects. The projects, taking place in Brazil, Guyana, Haiti and Mexico, took an integrated approach to addressing NTDs by combining interventions from the water and sanitation and education sectors, and taking advantage of synergies within governments, NGOs and private sectors within the region. This integrated approach stands in contrast to the more traditional approach to addressing NTDs — one which historically involved concentrating on one disease at a time and offering medications and treatments to entire at-risk populations to stop the spread of disease.

The work undertaken by the LAC NTD Initiative is critical; the Latin America and Caribbean region has been plagued by underfunding for NTD control even though more than 100 million individuals in the region are infected by at one or more of these diseases. Yet NTDs can be treated at a very low cost in comparison to other public health interventions. For example, it is estimated that lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis and trachoma could be eliminated, and soil-transmitted helminth and schistosomiasis controlled in the Latin America and Caribbean region by 2020 for as little as US$0.51 per person in most countries.

As the world quickly approaches the deadline of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals go into effect, we must focus on the world’s poorest and most marginalized communities who suffer from NTDs in an effort to ensure that no one is left behind.

It Can be Done: An Integrated Approach for Controlling and Eliminating Neglected Tropical Diseases seeks to inform policymakers and program managers’ efforts to design, manage, implement and evaluate integrated NTD programs. The report, which presents the first comparative analysis that uses a single methodology to investigate the feasibility of implementing integrated programs, will certainly move the world one step closer to ending the suffering caused by NTDs.

To read the full report, click here.

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END7 Supports Strengthening and Scaling-Up of Deworming Campaigns in Peru

 

Peruvian health workers are helping end the burden of NTDs in Peru. Photo by INMED Andes

Peruvian health workers are helping control and eliminate NTDs. Photo by INPPACE 

Approximately 3.5 million children are at risk for intestinal worms – including hookworm, whipworm and roundworm – in Peru. Even though Peru has experienced significant economic growth over the past decade, a large portion of its population continues to live in poverty, with four out of ten families still lacking access to clean water. Environments like these promote the transmission of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) like intestinal worms which can lead to malnutrition and anemia among children.

To address Peru’s NTD burden, the nonprofit organization INMED Partnerships for Children is working in collaboration with regional governments and regional departments of health and education to carry out deworming campaigns to address the burden of intestinal worms in particular. With support from the Global Network’s END7 campaign, INMED recently launched a study to evaluate the impact of these deworming campaigns on addressing intestinal worm infections and the nutritional status of children in Peru’s Ucayali Region. INMED is collaborating with the Peruvian Institute for Clinical and Experimental Parasitology to complete the study.

health workers are trained to measure the height & weight of children. Photo by INMED

Health workers are trained to measure the height & weight of children. Photo by INMED

The study will provide important insights on how to improve the effectiveness of deworming campaigns and will inform the scale up of deworming campaigns across Peru. Peru’s Ministry of Health has called for semiannual national deworming days and with the support of INMED and Johnson & Johnson, Peru will launch a nationwide campaign to treat millions of children living in NTD-endemic areas of Peru at the end of this year.

The END7-supported study will also build the capacity of local health staff. Already, training has been completed for community health workers to deliver deworming medicines, for laboratory technicians to diagnose intestinal worm infections, and for nurses to carry out nutritional assessments such as measuring children’s weight and height and their hemoglobin levels, an important indicator for anemia. By training local staff, INMED is strengthening Peru’s public health sector and creating a sustainable project that will continue to improve the health of Peruvians.

INMED’s efforts to increase access to NTD treatment among the most vulnerable communities in rural areas of Peru are inspiring. Thanks to the generosity of END7 donors, this project will lay the groundwork for future deworming campaigns that will reach more children at risk for intestinal worms in Peru.