Category Archives: Latin America and the Caribbean

Haiti’s National Program for the Elimination of Lympathic Filariasis Prevails Despite Adversity

 

Photo by Olivier Asselin

Photo by Olivier Asselin

Haiti has made remarkable progress against lymphatic filariasis (LF), a disfiguring and stigmatizing neglected tropical disease (NTD), despite facing many challenges. A recently published PLOS NTDs editorial highlights the perseverance and support displayed by the Haitian government and development partners, resulting in scaled-up mass drug administration (MDA) across the country, integrated programs with soil-transmitted helminths (also known as intestinal worms) and increased morbidity management. With these successes, the Haitian effort to eliminate LF can certainly be a model for other countries.

The Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) established the National Program to Eliminate LF (NPELF) in 2000 to stop LF transmission and reduce the suffering of infected people. Key partners include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CBM, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Abbott Foundation, PepsiCo, Frank Eck Family Foundation and others.

In the first MDA, conducted in Léogâne in 2000, the NPELF and local partners trained community leaders and health volunteers on medicine distribution techniques and educated them about LF treatment, transmission and prevention. Social mobilization was another integral component, spreading messages by banners, posters, radio and megaphones to increase the number of people participating in MDA.

Efforts then focused on scaling up the program to reach all people in need. However, over the course of many years, natural disasters and political and social unrest challenged expansion of the LF program. Just some examples include random acts of violence, devastating hurricanes and flooding, an earthquake and a vicious cholera outbreak.

Yet, increased advocacy, new funding and reinvigorated planning provided the necessary boosts to scale up and achieve results. One of the meetings that jumpstarted new progress was organized by the Global Network, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and IDB. As the PLOS NTDs paper explains, “The partners affirmed their support for NTD control and elimination of LF, and the donor community responded. With new funding for MDA in Port-au-Prince from CDC and others, Haiti was finally poised for the first time to achieve full coverage of the entire country with MDA, with a population in excess of 10 million.”

Now, Haiti has achieved full national coverage, and it must strive for interrupted LF transmission. With strong partnerships and continued political commitment, this milestone is in Haiti’s grasp.

To read the full paper, “Haiti National Program for the Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis — A Model of Success in the Face of Adversity,” click here.

Paraguay is Doubling the Bet with a Deworming Campaign to Treat and Prevent NTDs among School Children

 

Credit: Pan American Health Organization

Credit: Pan American Health Organization

Last week, I was very excited to see that Paraguay’s Ministries of Health and Education, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) aimed to treat more than 1.4 million school children, as well as homeless and indigenous populations, for intestinal worms during a four-day deworming campaign.  This year’s campaign marks a significant scale-up from last year’s effort which reached 700,000 school children in comparison.

In order to double the outreach from previous campaigns, they spread the word in a number of ways, including through social media. Thanks to visual informational materials, and even the creation of a friendly mascot, children across the country were motivated to take deworming medicine.

Intestinal worm infections disproportionately affect the poor in Paraguay. More than 50 percent of Paraguayan households lack access to clean water and sanitation, exacerbating the spread of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) like intestinal worms.

These infections rob children of nutrients and energy and can lead to anemia and malnutrition, preventing them from going to school and undermining their potential to learn and succeed. But thanks to Paraguay’s expanded efforts to treat and control intestinal worms, more and more children will benefit from improved health. As girls grow up free of worms, well-nourished and better educated, they will also become better prepared for a healthy pregnancy and a successful delivery of healthy babies.

Last week’s campaign, launched in the City of San Lorenzo on August 4th, promoted the importance of proper hygiene and sanitation in addition to distributing deworming medicine. Regular hand washing, increased use of toilets and latrines and washing fruits and vegetables are essential to help prevent the spread and reinfection of intestinal worms.

The government of Paraguay, PAHO, municipal governments, school teachers, and parents all played a role during the campaign and helped promote hygiene practices by sharing materials and conducting trainings. To ensure that rural populations also received medicines and educational materials, national health teams worked closely with local health departments as well. We congratulate the leadership of the Ministries of Health and Education for this innovative and collaborative work.

Paraguay’s 2014 deworming campaign demonstrates the country’s commitment to controlling and eliminating NTDs. However, Paraguay can do more to lessen the unnecessary suffering caused by NTDs.

Efforts need to be made to map the prevalence of intestinal parasites, track and report existing deworming efforts, and focus on establishing programmatic collaborations with neighboring countries Bolivia and Argentina to implement NTD efforts in the cross-national Chaco Region where many communities of indigenous people are living in extremely poor conditions. With a strong commitment to maintain these activities, Paraguay’s children will benefit from a healthier and more prosperous country.

Why More than a Million School Kids in Honduras are Happy without Worms

 

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When I arrived at Escuela Pedro Nufio, a school in Choluteca, Honduras, I saw hundreds of healthy kids eagerly raising their hands in class, laughing with their teachers and playing outside with their friends.

These kids were happy and healthy thanks to Honduras’ commitment to end neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) – an effort supported by Honduras’ Ministries of Health and Education, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the World Food Program, several NGOs, and last but not least, hundreds of END7 supporters who made generous donations on behalf of the 2.5 million children suffering from NTDs in Honduras.

See the difference we made together:

In 2012, Honduras became the first country in Latin America to launch a national plan to control and eliminate NTDs. Since then, the country has scaled up its national deworming campaign, and this past year, 1,051,659 children in 11,576 schools were treated for NTDs.

But Honduras’ deworming campaign is about more than just NTD treatment. Access to clean water and sanitation, and NTD education and prevention are also important parts of the country’s integrated program. To answer this need, END7 supporters provided clean water to 100,461 people by purchasing and installing water treatment equipment in the municipalities of Marcovia and El Triunfo. END7 donors also funded the training of school children, teachers, and communities on parasitic worms and the importance of hand washing.

After traveling to Honduras, I felt more optimistic than ever that we CAN control and eliminate NTDs. Honduras is making incredible strides against these diseases – and the health workers and teachers I met there are extremely passionate and committed to ending the suffering of their people.

To reach their end goal, Honduras is moving forward with eight department level operational plans and the training of personnel from each department on NTD control-related activities. However, Honduras still needs support to close their funding gap and reach all children at risk for NTDs.

The kids I met in Choluteca need to be treated annually to remain free of NTDs. Donate today to make sure these kids continue to smile, succeed in school and lie healthy lives.

Honduras: Leading the Way in the Americas through Integrated Efforts to Treat Neglected Tropical Diseases

 

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Honduras is one of Latin America’s leaders in health and integration; their nation-wide effort to control and eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) draws upon the institutionalized infrastructure of the country’s national vaccination week activities, and works across multiple sectors to deworm as many children as possible throughout the country.

Honduras’ unique and successfully-integrated approach to fighting NTDs is highlighted in a recently published success story, Honduras: Leading the Way in the Americas through Integrated Efforts to Treat Neglected Tropical Diseases (click here to read in Spanish).The success story highlights one of the country’s pilot programs which dewormed children aged one – four as part of the country’s vaccination week activities and scaled up to reach all preschool children at-risk, as well as Honduras’ efforts to deworm all school-aged children across the country.

In Honduras, 870,816 preschool children and 2 million school-age children are at risk for soil transmitted helminth infections (also known as intestinal worms). Intestinal worm infections are wide-spread and have a 50 percent prevalence rate in nearly half the country’s municipalities. These infections can cause severe anemia and contribute to pregnancy complications in women and severe malnutrition in children. NTDs also pose a threat to the development for endemic countries like Honduras by trapping the most vulnerable populations in cycles of poverty.

To address the heavy NTD burden within the country, Honduras’ NTD program leverages two platforms: Vaccination Week in the Americas and the Escuelas Saludables program. During Vaccination Week in the Americas, the deworming of children aged one-four occurs alongside a variety of other health interventions like vitamin A supplementation and vaccinations. And concurrently, Honduras’ Ministry of Health works with the Ministry of Education and Social Development, the World Food Programme and others to deworm school children across the country. Just last year, the Global Network partnered with these groups, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Operation Blessing and the MAMA Project to deworm more than one million school children.

And beyond just deworming, Honduras is integrating water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH) practices into its NTD prevention efforts. Because NTDs are easily spread by contaminated water sources and a lack of hygiene and sanitation practices, health workers and teachers promote hygiene education among children through the Escuelas Saludables program. Additionally, four safe water systems (hydrochlorinators) were installed in the municipalities of Marcovia and El Triunfo.

Honduras’ deworming program has been successful not only because of its integrated nature, but also because of its political and public support. For example, in 2010 Honduras formed a National NTD Committee, called the Mesa Tecnica, which includes NTD experts from the Ministry of Health, PAHO country office and various other partners including academia and nongovernmental organizations. The Mesa Tecnica has led efforts to map the prevalence of intestinal worms and develop the national NTD plan.

Honduras also has the support of Global Network NTD Special Envoys including Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, former PAHO Director, His Excellency, President Ricardo Lagos Escobar of Chile and His Excellency, President Alvaro Arzú Iriogoyen of Guatemala.

This combination of political and public support, and a well-designed and integrated NTD program have solidified Honduras’ position as a leader in NTD control and elimination efforts in the region. To learn more about Honduras’ efforts and to read the full success story, click here.