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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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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 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.
END7 student supporters have had a busy spring! Between creative fundraising events, high-impact advocacy activities (including meetings with 39 members of Congress on the second annual END7 Student Advocacy Day!), and the launch of chapters at universities from Scotland to Ghana, our student community has been making a difference in communities around the world. Students kicked off this busy semester with the celebration of the first-ever global NTD Awareness Week from January 24-30 – ending on the fourth anniversary of the signing of the London Declaration on NTDs.
Here are some highlights from the week from participating universities around the world:
Duke University (Durham, North Carolina, USA)
Duke University END7 Student Advisory Board representative John Lu is currently teaching a for-credit elective course on NTDs, and celebrated NTD Awareness Week on campus by inviting Justin Lana, a PhD candidate at Duke, to give a guest presentation on guinea worm to the class. Justin spent two years living in a tent in South Sudan working with the Carter Center on their Guinea worm eradication effort. He shared stories of his work while living there, and demonstrated to the class how exactly he, and those he supervised, went about from community to community to ensure that guinea worm transmission was interrupted. He even brought in a few of the actual water filters that were distributed to community members to stop transmission, and passed around a guinea worm in formaldehyde that he had smuggled into the U.S. The sample is one of just 300 remaining samples of guinea worm, which is nearing eradication (with just 22 human cases left in the world).
Georgetown University (Washington, D.C., USA)
Throughout NTD Awareness Week, Georgetown students actively promoted a petition to urge President Obama to increase funding for the USAID NTD Program in the last budget request of his presidency. END7 at Georgetown members helped deliver petition signatures across town to the White House at the end of Awareness Week!
Glasgow University (Glasgow, Scotland)
To celebrate NTD Awareness Week, the newly-established GUEND7 Society organized a pub quiz trivia event that raised £177.05 ($250) for END7! 30 attendees had a great time answering trivia questions about NTDs and other topics. The winning team was awarded a prize of tea cakes and biscuits donated by a local merchant.
Northeastern University (Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
END7 at Northeastern celebrated NTD Awareness Week with a Dancing with the Stars fundraising event, bringing campus celebrities together with members of the Northeastern University Ballroom Dance Team to put on fun performances – and even offer a Bachata dance lesson to attendees!
This creative event raised hundreds of dollars for NTD treatment – and was a whole lot of fun!
Nnamdi Azikiwe University (Awka, Nigeria)
Students at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, organized a training session for medical students to learn more about NTDs. The president of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka Medical Student Association (NAUMSA), John Chukwu, recorded this video explaining NTDs and the END7 campaign and rallying students to get involved in the NTD effort.
Rice University (Houston, Texas, USA)
END7 at Rice launched NTD Awareness Week with a Super Smash Bros video game tournament that brought students from across campus together to raise money to “smash NTDs” while competing to win their favorite game.
After a busy week of advocacy and education activities on campus, they collaborated with the Rice Pre-Medical Society to make NTDs the topic of their Third Annual Medical Speakers Conference on January 30. Dr. Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute (home of END7), delivered the keynote address, “NTDs: The Global Diseases of War and Poverty” – and took a minute to pose with members of the END7 at Rice executive board at the event.
Saint Mary’s University (Halifax, Canada)
Members of the just-launched SMU Voice for NTDs student society celebrated NTD Awareness Week with a fun Tropical Night fundraiser to spread the word about their new club and raise money for NTD treatment. The event featured a limbo competition, tropical photo booth, costume contest, and tropical refreshments – a perfect escape from the Halifax winter weather!
Talk about putting the fun in fundraising!
University of Sierra Leone (Freetown, Sierra Leone)
The leaders of END7 at the University of Sierra Leone College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) organized several exciting events during NTD Awareness Week, beginning with a capacity building training for students to learn about the NTDs prevalent in Sierra Leone. The training was co-facilitated by Hellen Keller International, an NGO addressing NTDs in the country. END7 at USL president Ishmael Tamba Jalloh gave a presentation about END7 and NTD Awareness Week at the event.
Ishmael then appeared on the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Cooperation national television program, PODIUM, to raise awareness about NTDs and END7, and was interviewed on two radio stations to promote NTD Awareness Week. Listen to his interview on the “Good Morning Show” here.
In addition to educating students and citizens about NTDs, END7 at USL members got involved directly in the NTD control and elimination effort by visiting schools in a low-income area of Freetown to educate primary school students about the importance of washing their hands and participating in mass drug administration (MDA) campaigns to stay safe from NTDs.
They also brought a water purification device to the school they visited to drive home their message!
END7 at USL members celebrate a successful NTD Awareness Week by holding up 7 fingers for END7!
University of Texas at Austin (Austin, Texas, USA)
END7 at UT kicked off NTD Awareness Week by setting up a Bagels and Brochures table in a busy area of campus, handing out information about NTDs and pastries donated by a local Panera restaurant.
Club members also wrote dozens of letters to President Obama urging him to increase funding for the USAID NTD Program in the last budget request of his presidency – mailing them to D.C. just in time for our petition delivery at the White House!
We are so proud of END7 student supporters around the world who came together to raise awareness and funds to fight NTDs during the first-ever global NTD Awareness Week. The diversity of our student supporters and the events they organized is a testament to the global nature of the NTD control and elimination effort – and the power of partnership in fighting NTDs. Here’s to making NTD Awareness Week bigger and better in 2017!
The END7 campaign awarded scholarships to three outstanding student leaders to attend the second annual END7 Student Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. Read scholarship winner Tayler McCord’s reflection on her experience in D.C.:
By Tayler McCord, Michigan State University
My involvement with neglected tropical disease (NTD) advocacy and fundraising began only a few months ago when I cofounded an END7 chapter at Michigan State University along with seven other undergraduate students. We each had an interest in public health and saw the importance of getting involved with NTDs. Prior to starting a chapter of END7, my knowledge of these diseases was very limited and I was not aware of the devastating burden of NTDs on global health. As I became more involved with END7 at MSU, I felt even more determined to raise awareness and funding to help eliminate these devastating yet preventable diseases. When I received an invitation from the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases to attend the second annual END7 Student Advocacy Day on March 1 in Washington, D.C., I was ecstatic. I knew that this event would be an incredible opportunity to be involved, firsthand, in the process of advocating for an issue that I had become very passionate about over the past year.
NTDs are a group of diseases that affect one in six individuals worldwide. Not only do they cause disability and disfigurement, NTDs also perpetuate a cycle of poverty by preventing children from attending school and receiving an education, by preventing adults from working and earning an income for themselves and their families, and ultimately preventing impoverished communities from growing and flourishing economically. Thankfully, these diseases can be treated and prevented at an incredibly low cost, making END7’s goal of ending the seven most prevalent NTDs by 2020 attainable – with the necessary political support and funding. Therefore, advocacy to policymakers is a crucial component of END7’s mission.
When I arrived in Washington, D.C., for Student Advocacy Day, I was unsure of what to expect, since I had never before been involved with advocacy on any issue – and certainly not at the political center of the United States on Capitol Hill! But I knew that regardless of my background, this would be a critical opportunity to help raise NTD awareness and provide a political voice for the 1.4 billion individuals afflicted by these diseases.
We began Advocacy Day with a coffee meeting with Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi. During the meeting, I got to speak with two of the Senator’s staffers about END7 and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) NTD Program. After briefly speaking with them about what we hoped to accomplish on Capitol Hill that day – building support for the USAID NTD budget – I felt even more confident and enthusiastic about our afternoon meetings with other congressional offices. Following our coffee meeting with Senator Wicker, we listened to speakers from Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, USAID, RTI International and Helen Keller International. Each of these speakers gave a unique perspective on the various efforts from different agencies and organizations to eliminate these diseases and mitigate the debilitating effects they have on those already infected. We were then briefed on our meetings with congressional offices with some advocacy “nuts and bolts” and key points to cover about NTDs and the USAID NTD program.
Following our briefing, we divided into small groups of students from different universities and began brainstorming on how we would go about our meetings. During my group’s four meetings with Senate offices, we each spoke about an aspect of NTDs that we were particularly passionate about, ranging from the effects of NTDs on maternal and child health to the strong private public partnership that has been established to treat and prevent NTDs in 25 countries through the USAID NTD Program. We also made sure to bring up key points about the program, such as the incredibly low cost of just 50 cents to treat and prevent the seven most common NTDs, as well as the 678 million individuals that have received treatment from the USAID NTD Program so far! Since President Obama proposed a $13.5 million dollar cut to the USAID NTD program in his FY17 budget, our main goal of the meetings was to advocate against this cut – and push for an increase of $25 million to $125 million in funding for this program. Without this crucial funding, we risk losing the progress we have made toward ending these devastating diseases. We concluded our meetings by asking each Senator to support the increase in funding for the USAID NTD program as well as to join the Senate Caucus on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases.
After spending one day advocating for NTD funding on Capitol Hill, I truly believe that it will not be my last. Although I felt passionate about END7’s goal before the event, attending Student Advocacy Day instilled in me an even greater passion for this issue and made me even more determined to help change the outlook for those affected by these debilitating diseases. The END7 Student Advocacy Day not only allowed me to participate in this crucial political process but has also inspired me to continue to make my voice heard to our nation’s lawmakers. I am excited to share this passion with others at Michigan State University and with members of our END7 chapter on campus. I hope to inspire and encourage others to participate in advocacy for NTD treatment to help make a positive difference in the lives of millions of people.
Tayler McCord is a senior at Michigan State University majoring in clinical laboratory science with a minor in global public health and epidemiology. She currently serves as the Secretary of END7 at MSU.