“I’ve had [lymphatic filariasis] for 18 years” said Bernadette Seenarine –a long time resident of Georgetown, Guyana who operates a small grocery shop from her home. In the short video titled one of four countries in the Americas where transmission of LF still occurs. Seenarine is one of an estimated 68,000 people –approximately 9 percent of Guyana’s population—assumed to have been infected with LF. In Guyana, it is estimated that 310,000 people are at risk of contracting the disease.
Lymphatic filariasis (LF)—also known as “big foot” in Guyana—is a debilitating neglected tropical disease (NTD) caused by microfilaria, a tiny parasite that causes the disease. In Georgetown, Guyana, the disease is predominately spread by the culex mosquito, the vector for the parasitic worm that causes LF. Due to the frequent flooding that occurs in Georgetown and its lack of adequate drainage and sewer systems, large pools of contaminated and stagnant water are formed throughout the city. These pools of water act as breeding grounds for culex mostiqutoes who transmit the LF disease to humans.
LF is extremely painful and causes profound swelling of the legs that can lead to permanent disability. People living with this disease also suffer from financial and social loses and can become stigmatized. “Sometimes people don’t want to come and buy when I have this foot,” Seenarine said when explaining how her swollen leg has caused people from her community to stop buying food from her grocery store. “…It’s really difficult to live with this.”
To tackle this problem, the Latin American and the Caribbean Neglected Tropical Disease Initiative (LAC NTD Initiative)—a partnership that includes the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Global Network for Neglected Tropical Disease—are working to scale-up efforts to control and eliminate NTDs within the LAC regions, including Guyana. These efforts include implementing joint community-based deworming campaigns for LF in Guyana’s capital of Georgetown, in addition to integrating social mobilization campaigns to educate Guyana’s population about LF treatment, transmission and prevention. The LAC NTD Initiative is also working to improve the infrastructure of Georgetown’s sewage system to reduce risk factors of contracting LF.
The Sabin City Group, a collaborative partnership with corporate institutions in the United Kingdom and the UK charity Sabin Foundation Europe, is also contributing in the fight to eliminate LF in Guyana by recently launching the group’s ‘Guyana campaign’. The campaign’s goal is to raise funding to support NTD programs in Guyana in an effort to eliminate LF by 2016.
To learn more about NTD projects carried out in the LAC region, we invite you to read this published report titled “It Can be Done: An Integrated Approach for Controlling and Eliminating Neglected Tropical Diseases”. We also encourage you to watch IDB’s documentary on LF in Guyana and the work that is being done to control and eliminate the disease.
While major gains have been made in the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), the Latin American and Caribbean region’s most poor and marginalized populations still suffer from the pain, disability and social exclusion associated with NTDs — diseases which have been successfully controlled in higher income countries.
However, the Latin America and the Caribbean Neglected Tropical Disease Initiative (LAC NTD Initiative), a partnership between the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Pan American health Organization (PAHO) and Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, is proving that the control and elimination of NTDs within the region is possible and within reach.
In a recently-published report, titled It Can be Done: An Integrated Approach for Controlling and Eliminating Neglected Tropical Diseases, the IDB draws upon four NTD demonstration projects to provide lessons learned in integrated NTD control projects. The projects, taking place in Brazil, Guyana, Haiti and Mexico, took an integrated approach to addressing NTDs by combining interventions from the water and sanitation and education sectors, and taking advantage of synergies within governments, NGOs and private sectors within the region. This integrated approach stands in contrast to the more traditional approach to addressing NTDs — one which historically involved concentrating on one disease at a time and offering medications and treatments to entire at-risk populations to stop the spread of disease.
The work undertaken by the LAC NTD Initiative is critical; the Latin America and Caribbean region has been plagued by underfunding for NTD control even though more than 100 million individuals in the region are infected by at one or more of these diseases. Yet NTDs can be treated at a very low cost in comparison to other public health interventions. For example, it is estimated that lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis and trachoma could be eliminated, and soil-transmitted helminth and schistosomiasis controlled in the Latin America and Caribbean region by 2020 for as little as US$0.51 per person in most countries.
As the world quickly approaches the deadline of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals go into effect, we must focus on the world’s poorest and most marginalized communities who suffer from NTDs in an effort to ensure that no one is left behind.
It Can be Done: An Integrated Approach for Controlling and Eliminating Neglected Tropical Diseases seeks to inform policymakers and program managers’ efforts to design, manage, implement and evaluate integrated NTD programs. The report, which presents the first comparative analysis that uses a single methodology to investigate the feasibility of implementing integrated programs, will certainly move the world one step closer to ending the suffering caused by NTDs.
To read the full report, click here.
In May 2014, the Sabin City Group, a newly formed donor group based in London, UK, hosted their inaugural event at the London headquarters of Credit Suisse to raise attention to the issue of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). With guest speakers including Andrew Bailey, Deputy Governor of Prudential Regulation at the Bank of England, Andy Wright, Vice President of Global Health Programmes at GSK and Global Network’s very own managing director, Dr. Neeraj Mistry, the 70 strong audience of bankers and corporate lawyers enjoyed an afternoon of discussion and debate on NTDs and the barriers to economic development and quality health and life.
The audience were startled to hear the facts: NTDs affect over one billion people including 800 million children globally, many of whom live on less than £1 per day. While NTDs may not kill in the same numbers that AIDS, TB and malaria do, many often lead to life-long suffering and disability, robbing people of their most economically productive years. NTD infections reduce school attendance among children and worker productivity for adults, trapping the most marginalized and vulnerable populations in a vicious cycle of poverty. And yet, for just 50 pence per year, a person can receive treatment and protection against the seven most common NTDs, making control efforts against these diseases one of the most cost-effective investments in global health and development largely thanks to the commitments of the pharmaceutical industry who have donated billions of doses of treatments for free.
Launched in the winter of 2013, the Sabin City Group is a partnership between corporate institutions in the UK and the charity Sabin Foundation Europe (SFE), the UK partner of the U.S.-based Sabin Vaccine Institute. This event was the first in a series of awareness and fundraising events to help achieve the group’s vision of building a UK corporate stakeholder movement that raises the awareness, political will and funding necessary, to control and eliminate the seven most common NTDs by 2020.
During the event, the Chair of the Sabin City Group, John Cummins, Group Treasurer of the Royal Bank of Scotland, launched the group’s ‘Guyana campaign’. This campaign is working to make history in the South American country of Guyana, to eliminate lymphatic filariasis (LF) by 2016. A Commonwealth country located on the northern coast of South America, Guyana has made progress in the fight against NTDs, but much work remains. The Sabin City Group is campaigning to reduce human suffering from these diseases of poverty through innovative delivery of treatments to an estimated 37,000 children at risk of soil transmitted helminthes (intestinal worms) and treatments to almost 690,000 people at risk of LF, a leading cause of disability globally. These investments will complement those already made by the Ministry of Health, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
You can follow the Sabin City Group’s activities on Twitter by following here!