Three to four hours. That’s how long one mother was willing to walk to make sure her child attended the annual vaccination and deworming campaign in the village of Coyalito in San Esteban, Honduras.
This past April was my third trip to Honduras in the last 14 months. On my first two trips, I spent the majority of my time running between government offices and meetings – including attending the launch of the Honduras national integrated plan on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Honduras was the first country* in Latin America and the Caribbean region to launch such a plan – which ensures that the country is tackling all diseases at once – versus one at a time.
This time on my return to Honduras, I saw firsthand how that plan was being put into motion.
And I was amazed.
For a country facing severe challenges in security and violence, Honduras is a leader and innovator when it comes to tackling NTDs.
Three government divisions – the Ministries of Health, Education and Social Development are working together to reach people in even the most remote parts of the country. They’ve taken charge by developing working groups to tackle issues and problems they notice when bringing the programs to the community.
They’re enthusiastic. They’re driven. And I’m quite positive that they’re going to succeed.
I know this because I traveled over six hours with the Ministry of Health over unpaved and rocky roadways on their visits to various districts. Distribution was carefully arranged: a health worker used a loud megaphone to call out to members of the community to invite them to visit the vaccine and deworming campaign. From there, mothers would bring their young children to receive essential vaccines and deworming medicine.
A nurse practitioner told me that bundling healthcare delivery– such as vaccination and deworming – often encourages more families to come. Most parents know about these diseases, especially the intestinal worms. In Honduras, and many other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, there’s a common belief that if children grind their teeth at night, they have parasites. There is a demand for deworming, and mothers came armed with their child’s immunization card and found a space to account for their child’s annual deworming treatment.
The Honduran ministries are also thinking beyond treatment for NTDs to a more comprehensive approach. These diseases are often spread due to lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation, which is a reality for some of the families in villages like Coyalito. As a result, the ministries are pushing to incorporate water filters in schools, and other sanitation initiatives which will propel these treatment programs toward long-term success.
At the end of the day, I joined the health team in brief survey to determine attendance of the campaign. We walked around each “manzana” – or block – to knock on people’s homes and ask them if children were dewormed and vaccinated. Health workers talked to them about why it’s important to attend these campaigns and have their children treated.
Among advocacy organizations, it seems that we often divvy up health issues, as if family planning, treatment for NTDs and vaccination are all independent projects. But, the reality is that often, at the point-of-care level, everything is bundled together. It’s very effective.
Our partners in Honduras want to expand this successful initiative to help many more families. END7 is asking supporters to help fill a funding gap to make sure this medicine reaches Honduran children in 20,061 schools. With your help we can reach 1.4 million school children and protect them harmful parasitic worms, including roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm.
*In March 2013, Brazil launched their integrated national plan, and currently several other countries have draft plans in development.
Project for Awesome. The Project for Awesome is an annual event that sprung out of various YouTube communities to support charities. Every year since 2007, thousands of people post videos to YouTube promoting charities on December 17th. They come together as a community to promote those videos and raise money.
Project for Awesome is an inspirational movement that shows END7 supporters that they can use their voice as well as their creativity in helping to end NTDs. END7 wants to thank two individuals that showed their support for END7. Isabella Bernal and Erica Crouch both made videos explaining their support for eliminating NTDs. We couldnt have said it better ourselves!
By: Charles Ebikeme
“Trypanosomiasis has kept Africa green”
The quote above comes from a book I can’t remember by an author whose name escapes me. In essence, it alludes to the inextricable relationship and balance that exists between all things on our planet, particularly the relationship between man and his environment. For a long time, we have known about the influence diseases can have on us, but we are only now beginning to realise its full extent.
The delicate relationship and inter-connected influence between human populations, climate, and the ecology of disease (vector-borne or otherwise) has unfolded over evolutionary time.
Genetically, some populations are predisposed to particular diseases. A Science last year, showed African-Americans have higher rates of kidney disease than European-Americans. The reason, as postulated by the researchers, was due to variants of a gene (APOL1), common in African chromosomes but absent from European chromosomes. The gene codes for a serum factor that lyses (or harms) trypanosomes. It seems the evolution of a critical survival factor in Africa now contributes to the high rates of kidney disease in African-Americans.
Changes in African climate in the last 5-6 million years are thought to have mediated important modifications in the African environment and in the animals that live there. As the rivers changed, and as plant and animal species adapted to a changing climate, disease was brought to areas where it wasnt before. These phenomena have marked important milestones in the evolution of humans and their predecessors. Continue reading
Were excited to share with you our brand new Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases website! Weve worked hard to create a brand new site that presents the same information and resources for all your NTD needs in a cleaner, more streamlined manner. Click here to check out the newly designed site, or click the image below: