Students from around the world wrote essays as part of their application for leadership positions with END7 for the upcoming academic year. Two students were awarded scholarships to attend the
By Gerald Oyeki Makere University (Kampala, Uganda)
Nelson Mandela, one of Africa’s greatest statesmen quoted, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ Students and young people constitute the most significant medium of change, transformation and generational growth, given that they are sources of energy, charisma and fountains of knowledge and innovation. Thus, their contribution in addressing global crises plays a pivotal role.
END7 is an international advocacy campaign that seeks to raise the awareness and funding necessary to control and eliminate the seven most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), which are a group of chronic and debilitating conditions, caused by parasitic and bacterial infections, by 2020. These diseases include elephantiasis, river blindness, snail fever, trachoma, roundworm and hookworm. They are mainly poverty-driven and are most prevalent in the poorest populations in the world in Asia, Latin America and Africa, with women and children who live in unsanitary environments facing the biggest threats. Such areas have little access to clean water or proper ways to dispose of human waste which are predisposing factors for the occurrence of these diseases. Neglected tropical diseases impair physical and cognitive development, contribute to maternal and child illness and death, and make it difficult to farm or earn a living – thus, the drive to end extreme poverty may not yield fruit if they are not dealt with.
According to the United Nations Human Development Report 2007/2008, Sub-Saharan Africa faces a serious threat for the occurrence and spread of NTDs and thus the urgency for action cannot be ignored. This has led to several integrated efforts to combat the diseases including mass sensitization and education, improvement of basic water, sanitation and hygiene, and mass drug administration as strategies pursued by various stakeholders, policy makers, implementers, funders and the society at large. For instance, in Uganda, the “One Health” concept appreciates and acknowledges that animal health, human health and the environment are a united system that cannot be independent of each other, and that the wellbeing of humans has got a significant dependence on the health of animals and the environment. This has facilitated the fight against zoonotic diseases, like rabies and soil-transmitted helminthes. Programs like the USAID NTD program, the Makerere University College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity and College of Health Sciences, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Industry and Fisheries have taken lead roles in the fight against these diseases to support Uganda’s goal of eliminating lymphatic filariasis and blinding trachoma by 2020.
However, the fight to end NTDs is still yet to be accomplished with a number of challenges like low awareness of these diseases, low education levels, and financial constraints for treatment programs. To address these challenges, engaging young people will be key. According to the 2014 United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) ‘State of the world’ report, Sub-Saharan African countries have a disproportionally large youth cohort. In fifteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa, half the population is under age 18. UNFPA’s review of youth-related policies in these countries suggest that the vast majority have committed to investments in youth-related initiatives and recognize their importance. Students and the youth population are in a strong position to create awareness NTDs and how they can be treated and prevented, actively participate in mass drug administration campaigns, influence government policy and priorities towards funding and fighting NTDs through advocacy led by student clubs and associations. One example of a group that could lead this effort is the One Health Students Club at Makerere University College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity, for which I serve as speaker emeritus. Our group carries out mass vaccination of animals, most commonly dogs, against zoonotic diseases like rabies (an NTD). The Acholi Students Union, for which I’m currently speaker, engages in mass sensitization of the Acholi ethnic group through radio talk shows, school visits and community outreach, which could be directed towards NTD education. Students can also engage in fundraising drives to boost resources for the fight against NTDs. Furthermore, students can advance NTD research at their universities.
The Millennium Campus Conference is a rich platform for me to use my oratory and leadership skills to interact with peers involved in international development, share knowledge, and convince student leaders from other parts of the world, of all different backgrounds – from both low, middle, and high income countries – of the urgency to eliminate NTDs, and how an integrated global youth approach could help accomplish this goal.
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!
Follow END7 USL on
In honor of NTD Awareness Week, and to rally for Thursdays NTD Advocacy Day, we present the below listicle for your enjoyment.
1. Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of parasitic and bacterial diseases that affect the world’s poorest people. Without treatment, they can lead to lifelong disabilities and suffering. But NTD treatment programs struggle to find funding.
2. The seven most common NTDs infect over one billion people, including half a billion kids, but it’s not all bad. It only costs 50 cents to treat and protect one person from seven NTDs for a whole year.
3. The United States government — through the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) NTD Program — is a leader in the effort to control and eliminate NTDs worldwide.
4. Since the USAID NTD Program was launched in 2006, more than 1 billion NTD treatments have been delivered to 460 million people across 25 countries.
6. The program’s budget is less than 1% of total U.S. spending on global health. But for the last three years, President Obama has suggested a $13.5 million cut to the program.
7. END7 student supporters spent last spring urging Congress to protect and increase funding for NTD treatment. But the fight is not over. Send a message to President
Bartlett Obama to show your support for the NTD budget!
Sabin Vaccine Institute. END7 is working to raise the awareness and funding necessary to control and eliminate the seven most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2020.
Each month, END7 honors one student who has made a significant contribution to our growing movement of student advocates dedicated to seeing the end of NTDs. We are very proud to introduce our November 2015 Student of the Month, Jessica Ellis, a sophomore biology major at the University of Texas at Austin. Jessica is the president of END7 at UT and a member of the END7 Student Advisory Board. She shares:
“I discovered END7 at UT during my freshman year, the day that I quit the track team and was frantically looking for new activities to get involved in at a campus organization fair. Right away, I was hooked by the idea of ending seven diseases, and was blown away by the statistics about NTDs and developments in the control and elimination effort that I learned about at END7 meetings. The scale of this effort and potential for transformation of entire communities through disease elimination fit with my view of – and hopes for – the world.
“By the end of my freshman year, I knew that my involvement in global health and NTDs couldnt just be an extracurricular activity for me. I wanted to do as much as I could for this cause as a student, and hopefully someday make it my career. So, it’s been really exciting to serve as the president of END7 at UT and as an END7 Student Advisory Board representative this year.
“In October, I had was given the incredible opportunity to travel to Philadelphia to attend the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) annual conference with the support of a scholarship from the END7 campaign. I got to hear presentations by NTD experts from all over the world at the event, and left the “NTD bubble” I had been immersed in for three days excited to communicate this information back on campus. I shared much of the new information I learned a talk I gave at an event hosted by UT student organization Advocates for Awareness, trying to instill the sense of urgency and excitement around this cause that I took away from my time with the powerful global health community that I met in Philadelphia.
“It was definitely a busy fall semester for END7 at UT. We hosted two new (and hopefully annual!) events on campus. We held an evening advocacy event – lit by candles, Christmas lights, and the iconic UT Tower – and collected more than 100 messages from students urging the UN to prioritize NTDs in the Sustainable Development Goals with a target and indicator. We also organized a variety of student organizations from across the UT campus to come together and fundraise for non-profits on Giving Tuesday. I cant wait to see what these events turn into over the next few years. Next semester, we are looking forward to hosting our annual benefit concert – a must for any non-profit hoping to fundraise in music-loving Austin!”
We are so grateful for Jessica’s commitment to the fight against NTDs, and we are excited to see our involved in END7’s work, contact the END7’s student outreach coordinator at Emily.Conron@sabin.org to learn how you can get started!