Category Archives: NTDs

Training Session Improves Prevention and Treatment of Podoconiosis for People of Cameroon

 

A podoconiosis patient practices good hygiene. Credit: Footwork

A podoconiosis patient practices good hygiene. Credit: Footwork

Guest blog post by Wendy Santis, Footwork Executive Director 

Twenty-five members of Cameroon’s Ministry of Health, and nurses and leaders from Mbebah Vigilantic Farming and Development Association — a community development NGO in Northwest Cameroon — received training this past December in podoconiosis diagnosis, prevention and mitigation.

Podoconiosis, a type of elephantiasis spread by chronic exposure to irritant soils, has been reported in over 15 countries across tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America in volcanic highland zones, and is an important cause of tropical lymphedema. This neglected tropical disease (NTD) is primarily found in remote rural areas where subsistence farmers typically work in the fields barefoot. It causes progressive bilateral swelling of the lower legs. It is not infectious — no virus, bacterium or parasite is responsible.

The exchange training visit in Cameroon, which aimed to strengthen the Northwest region’s ability to control podoconiosis, was funded by Footwork: The International Podoconiosis Initiative (a project of New Venture Fund, a 501c3 public charity), Brighton and Sussex Medical School and International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). Participants included three IOCC staff who are involved in podoconiosis prevention and treatment programs in Ethiopia: Hari Desta, Tsige Amberbir and Abreham Tamiru. They, plus Footwork Executive Director Wendy Santis, worked with Professor Samuel Wanji’s team from the University of Buea/Research Foundation for Tropical Disease and Environment.

podo2Since 2009, IOCC, in collaboration with Gail Davey, Professor of Global Health Epidemiology at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, and Footwork’s founder, has developed a scalable model to address podoconiosis with an aggressive prevention and treatment program in Ethiopia, where more than three million people suffer from this debilitating disease of the feet and legs and another 38 million are at risk. Through this IOCC model, more than 300,000 children and adults have been assisted through awareness, prevention and treatment efforts.

Data and recommendations are being shared with Cameroon’s Ministry of Health planners to inform policy decisions regarding community-based management of morbidity due to podoconiosis with the goal of eliminating podoconiosis in the region and the country. A Northwest region podoconiosis advocacy committee has been formed to further these efforts.

This work is extremely important, considering two million people (10 percent of Cameroon’s population) are at risk of podoconiosis. Mapping in Northwest Cameroon has demonstrated that podoconiosis is endemic in this region. Several thousand people are affected with a mean prevalence of 1 percent. Further mapping is planned.

To learn more about Footwork and podoconiosis, visit: www.podo.org.

In addition to Cameroon, Footwork is active in Ethiopia and plans to work in Uganda and Rwanda, among other countries. It encourages integration of podoconiosis control into efforts to eliminate other NTDs, and works with those active in other related diseases of the foot and leg.

  • Our shared goal is to eliminate podoconiosis within our lifetimes.
  • Our vision is a world free of podoconiosis in our lifetimes.
  • Our mission is to bring together public and private partners to support prevention and treatment of, and advocacy for, podoconiosis.

Water is Crucial to Ending Blinding Trachoma

 

Photo from International Trachoma Initiative

Photo from International Trachoma Initiative

By Elizabeth Kurylo
Communications manager, International Trachoma Initiative

Every morning and every night, I turn on the hot and cold water taps, adjusting them so the temperature is just warm enough to wash my face. I take for granted that the water will flow. I would be shocked if it didn’t. This easy access to water is a luxury not enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

As we mark World Water Day, it is worth noting that 748 million people do not have access to an improved source of drinking water and 2.5 billion do not use an improved sanitation facility. For them, the lack of water can mean poor health, disability and even death.

Water and sanitation is especially important in the prevention and control of trachoma and other neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Trachoma is an ancient eye disease caused by a bacterial infection. Left untreated, it can lead to blindness. But we can stop it with the World Health Organization-endorsed SAFE strategy – Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvement.

Water is crucial to facial cleanliness, and key to ending blinding trachoma.  But in many places where trachoma is endemic, water is scarce, and rationed for uses other than hygiene, such as cooking. Face washing is not a priority.

The global trachoma community has made much progress since 1998, when Pfizer began donating the antibiotic Zithromax®, which treats and prevents trachoma. More than 444 million doses of Zithromax® have been shipped to trachoma endemic countries to date. And seven countries have reported reaching their elimination goals.

Under the leadership of WHO and the Alliance for the Global Elimination of Blinding Trachoma by the year 2020 (GET 2020), national trachoma programs have steadily scaled up implementation. In 2014, WHO’s Weekly Epidemiological Report (WER) said trichiasis surgeries and antibiotic distribution were tenfold higher in 2013 compared to 2004.

The International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC) has galvanized the global trachoma community’s commitment to reaching elimination by 2020.  Collaboration on game-changing initiatives with governments, health officials and trachoma endemic communities has led to the mobilization of more than 150 million dollars of new funding from DFID, USAID and the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust.  That is in addition to the national government domestic budget allocations and support already provided by many non-governmental development organizations as well as other donors such as the Lions Clubs International Foundation, Conrad N Hilton Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  The WASH sector also is collaborating with the NTD sector to achieve shared goals of improving health and eliminating disease.

Still, there is much work to do. An estimated 232 million people in 51 countries live in trachoma endemic areas. Globally, 31 countries are implementing the SAFE strategy to eliminate trachoma, which signifies that 20 countries are still in need of help.

In 2015, ITI plans to ship 115 million doses of Zithromax®, donated by Pfizer. That is more than twice the amount approved for shipment in 2014.  ”We are doing everything we can to accelerate access to Zithromax® needed by people who are at risk of blindness from trachoma,” said Dr. Paul Emerson, Director of ITI. “We are empowering national programs so that those at risk of going blind from trachoma can be treated.”

Empowering people in trachoma endemic communities to prioritize water for hygiene also has lasting benefits. I saw this in Ethiopia, where I met Amarech Haluka, the mother of three young girls, one of whom had experienced the pain of trachoma. Health workers introduced the SAFE strategy to Amarech’s community, which received donated Zithromax® and education about the importance of using latrines and keeping their faces clean to avoid trachoma. Amarech and her husband got a loan to install a water pump in their back yard, and she now routinely washes her children’s faces twice a day. Even though she cannot adjust the temperature of the water that flows from her pump, her children’s faces are clean, and her family is free of trachoma.

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Speak out against Proposed Cuts to the USAID’s NTD Program

 

END7_Malindi_MoScarpelli_web_18

The Global Network was disappointed to see the proposed decrease in neglected tropical disease (NTD) funding outlined in the President’s budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2016.  While the proposal includes $86.5 million for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Neglected Tropical Disease (USAID’s NTD) Program, it is a drop of $13.5 million from the $100 million allocation approved by Congress for FY 2014 and FY 2015.

Bipartisan action in Congress has thankfully, over the past few years, led to increased funding for NTD programs beyond the Administration’s requests. This year, the Global Network is urging Congress to honor and continue these previous commitments by requesting that the USAID NTD Program receive $125 million in funding for FY2016.

USAID’s NTD Program, an extremely successful and cost-effective public-private partnership, has reached more than 465 million individuals in 25 countries, focusing on the scale-up of mass drug administration (MDA) with the aim of controlling and eliminating the seven most common NTDs. The program leverages more than $6.7 billion worth of drugs donated by pharmaceutical companies in order to scale-up MDAs in endemic countries, such as Ethiopia, Indonesia, and Nigeria.

The USAID NTD Program is crucial for cutting poverty and increasing broader health outcomes worldwide, considering that NTD treatment contributes to the success of other development efforts. Maternal and child health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, education, and health systems strengthening ALL benefit from NTD treatment.

The Global Network’s END7 campaign is taking action against the proposed budget cuts with its recently-launched “Call to Action” petition. To get involved and speak out, add your name here.

For other ways to get involved and join the fight, use END7’s new Twitter tool to tweet directly at your member of Congress, urging them to defend the USAID NTD budget.  And lastly, feel free to share our infographic with your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues, which outlines just how crucial the USAID NTD Program is to the global effort to end NTDs.