by Navneet Anand and Anuradha Singh, GreyMatters Communications
GreyMatters Communications to run a media awareness program on Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) in India. We took a group of journalists to two affected villages in Odisha to provide them exposure about the problem as well as help them evaluate challenges towards its complete elimination.
The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, an initiative of the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
Often falling beyond the purview of mainstream media, like many other compelling problems in the country, LF has severe enormity and has persisted in India as well as other countries of the world for many years.
Not many would be aware that LF is the world’s second leading cause of long-term disability. Although filariasis does not kill, it causes debility and imposes severe social and economic burden to the affected individuals, their families and the endemic communities. According to one estimate at one point in time 120 million people in 83 countries of the world were infected with lymphatic filarial parasites, and it was estimated that more than 1.1 billion (20% of the world’s population) are at risk of acquiring infection. Over 40 million people are severely disfigured and disabled by filariasis and 76 million are apparently normal but have hidden internal damage to lymphatic and renal systems. According to the World Health Organization, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Bangladesh alone contribute about 70% of the infection worldwide.
Indigenous lymphatic filariasis cases have been reported from 20 Stateshttp//www.mohfw.nic.in/', 'Ministry of Health');" target="_blank">Ministry of Health.
It is rather heartening to note that the overall microfilaria rate has reduced from 1.24% in 2004 to 0.29% in 2013 (Prov.) at national level. Out of 250 districts 203 districts have reported overall microfilaria rate to less than 1%. Out of remaining 52 districts, 31 need high priority for focussed intervention as these districts have been persistently reporting microfilaria rate above 1%. Ganjam and Puri in Odisha, where we travelled, are also among the high-incidence districts in the country.
It was rather painful to come across two cases of Lakhender Swain and Kointa Swain in Kapileshwarpur village in Puri. Afflicted with this distressing disease, the two have wasted their most productive years attending to deal with this disabling disease. “I had a dream for my life but the tyranny of this disease was such that I was rendered helpless. For over 20 years now, I have lived with this heaviness in the leg and associated problems including social taboos and boycotts,” rued Lakhender, who is 45 only. Kointa, in her 60s, recalls how at one point she was extremely active and used to work “effectively” till destiny willed otherwise.
“NTDs like lymphatic filariasis hold people back not just physically, but also socially. Misunderstandings about what causes the disease, how it is transmitted and what its effects are can lead to stigma and social exclusion. This lack of understanding can cause communities to push LF patients to the margins, excluding them from employment or educational opportunities, from community festivals or celebrations and making it difficult to marry. The impact can go beyond the LF patient to also affect family members of LF patients. Self-stigma is also a problem and can impact a patient’s mental health. Social isolation compounds the impact of the infection, keeping people from trying to achieve their aspirations or have hope for the future. Although LF tends to be visible in rural and poor communities, LF is spread through mosquitos, like dengue and malaria, so anyone can be infected,” said Nandini Pillai, Programs and Operations Officer, GNNTD.
However, thanks to some serious and sustained intervention by the government as well as work by agencies like GNNTD as well as NGOs like CASA (Churchs Auxiliary for Social Action), the problem is well contained and India may well be on the verge of soon eliminating the disease altogether.
One of the key programs of the Government is Mass Drug Administration where all those at risk are administered medicine free of cost.
“The treatment is a weight-based dose of diethylcarbamizne (DEC), and a single pill of albendazole, to everyone over the age of 2 years and not ill or pregnant. Both drugs are anti-parasitic medications which prevent and expel parasites. These medicines also protect from intestinal worm infections. The treatment is safe and free and delivered to communities through ASHA workers and other community-based drug distributors. The drugs are donations from major pharmaceutical companies, like GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), or procured in India from WHO approved companies. They are completely safe,” informed Shaliesh Vaite, National NTD Advisor, GNNTD.
The 2015 MDA is underway nationwide from December 14-20.
The medical approach to defeating NTDs is through a set of medications donated by major pharmaceutical companies for free distribution to communities in need. “In India, state governments locally procure some medications and submit their requests for donated drugs to the central government, which then works with WHO to order and deliver the drugs. Community drug distributers are responsible for going door to door to hand out the drugs and ensure that people take them properly. This grassroots method for treating and protecting against NTDs takes the partnership of the whole community working in tandem, and ensures that nobody is left behind,” added Kelly Toves, Communications Officer, GNNTD.
Along with this, if media also undertakes to write more often and inform people about the ways to deal with this scourge, the process of elimination will be faster.
This post was originally published on Communicate, Connect.
Check out the latest in global health and NTD news with the todays End the Neglect reading list! Today were reading about:
Distribution of filariasis tablets begins The Fiji government has announced it will be distributing anti filariasis tablets again in an effort to eliminate the disease in the country. The 2011 Mass Drug Administration (MDA) will begin next week Monday. The tablets will also be available at Health Centres and Nursing Stations in the Central, Eastern and Northern divisions. Ministry of Health spokeswoman Priscilla Govind said the Central Eastern and Northern divisions will undergo a further (9th) round of MDA scheduled for 26th September to 7th October.
Johnson & Johnson Makes Strong Progress in First Year of Initiative to Improve Health of Millions of Women and Children in the Developing World Since its launch last September, Johnson & Johnson has laid a strong foundation for measurable impact in several areas toward Every Woman, Every Child, the United Nations’ Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health to reduce mortality in women and children by 2015, including: expanding health information for mothers over mobile phones, helping to increase the number of safe births, doubling donations of treatments for intestinal worms in children Johnson & Johnson more than doubled its donation of mebendazole, a treatment for intestinal worms in children, through its Children Without Worms program, up from 36 million doses in 2010 to 80 million doses by the end of 2011. The Company plans to continue to expand this program to distribute 200 million doses each year in 30 to 40 countries by 2015.
Award-Winning LifeStraw® Water Filter Makes North American Retail Debut The award-winning LifeStraw® personal water filter is now available to consumers in the U.S. and Canada for the first time. The portable filter—used since 2005 amid harsh conditions in developing countries—removes bacteria and parasites from water, and is ideal for outdoor activities, overseas travel, and emergency preparedness. LifeStraw® is an elegantly simple but technologically advanced innovation. The filtering tube measures about nine inches long and one inch in diameter, and weighs less than two ounces. It removes virtually all bacteria (99.9999 percent) and protozoa parasites (99.9 percent) that can contaminate water, and it reduces turbidity (muddiness) by filtering out particulate matter.
By: Alanna Shaikh
On August 21, the World Health Organization declared the Compostela Valley of Davao region, Philippines, to be Filariasis free. Considering that ten years ago filariasis was endemic in the Philippines, that’s an impressive accomplishment.
This 2003 article about poverty and filariasis in the Philippines is a useful reminder that eliminating the disease is about more than the direct disfigurement and injury caused by the diseases. The filariasis-endemic provinces in the Philippines are also its poorest. Eliminating LF in the Compostela Valley therefore represents a sign that the government is paying more attention to its poorest citizens and the removal of a barrier to success on the part of poor people. Giant swollen limbs don’t make gainful employment easy, especially in poor areas with low educational attainment.
The Compostela Valley province – known apparently as Comval by Filipinos – certainly fits that bill. It has an economy heavily dependent on agriculture and mining. The day before the LF announcement was made, it saw mass possession by malevolent spirits. As you can guess, being afflicted by a severe disabling disease in this region is going to be a serious impediment to financial success or happiness. Continue reading
Happy Friday readers! Check out the latest happenings in the world of neglected and infectious diseases on our reading list. Today were reading about:
Where Every Drop of Water Counts Mrs Nhamo Mutumba (22), a mother of one who lives in Muvhidza Village under chief Goronga in Mudzi District, is a woman who has watched the nearest Nyatikonde Dam that used to provide water for habitants of her area dry up. She has seen many meetings on how to solve the problem being attended by men while on her way to look for water.
DOH hopes to declare Oro as filariasis-free by 2012 The Department of Health (DOH) is hoping to declare Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Occidental as filariasis-free by next year. Dr. Jaime Bernadas, DOH Northern Mindanao director, said this is the fifth year that the Mass Drug Administration (MDA) has been done to persons living in endemic areas in Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Occidental and Misamis Oriental to prevent them from getting infected with filariasis.
Mass drug administration vs filariasis to include Iloilo City The city government here is joining the third round of the mass drug administration (MDA) against lymphatic filariasis slated in November. This was confirmed by Dr Ma. Jocelyn Te, coordinator of the emerging/re-emerging diseases prevention and control of the Department of Health-Center for Health Development 6 (DOH-CHD 6). The five-year MDA campaign against filariasis kicked off 2009 with the province of Iloilo as the first target and was later expanded to cover other provinces of Panay.
Indigenous elders to train up child doctors Elders in Alice Springs are selecting children aged under 10 to train them up to be so-called child doctors. Children will learn more about basic health and hygiene in the training sessions. The projects coordinators say a similar scheme in Indonesia helped prevent an outbreak of cholera after the 2004 tsunami.