Posts Tagged Latin America and the Caribbean

Thanks for Helping Us Reach More Than 1 Million School Children in Honduras!

December 19th, 2013

Honduran Children

Photo by Olivier Asselin

By Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, NTD Special Envoy 

This August, the END7 campaign asked for your help in treating more than 1 million school children in Honduras for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) – and I’m a happy to share that the joint effort was a success! Your donations helped ensure that 1,051,659 children in 11,576 public schools remain free from harmful parasitic worms for an entire year. On behalf of these children, their families and communities, I stand with END7 in saying thank you – ¡Muchas gracias!

You helped support Honduras’ national deworming campaign for school-aged children, which spanned throughout 18 states and 298 municipalities within the country. A strong collaboration led by the Ministry of Health of Honduras, with support from the Ministry of Education, the Healthy Schools Program, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the World Food Programme (WFP), Operation Blessing, MAMA Project and the END7 Campaign drove the campaign forward.

The campaign reached 88.6% of the children targeted for treatment (524,472 girls and 528,736 boys). And this effort was about more than just pill distribution. The Ministry of Health equipped health workers, volunteers, school personnel and partners with the knowledge, tools and training they need to implement additional campaigns in the years to come – ensuring that children are continually protected from intestinal worms which sap their energy, keep them with anemia and malnutrition and impair their capacity to grow and learn, thus perpetuating a life in poverty.

Embodying the “train the trainer approach,” health personnel at the regional level trained elementary school teachers in 298 districts, who in turn, trained parents on measures to prevent the transmission of soil-transmitted helminths (STHs, or intestinal parasites), amplifying the protection of children throughout the country.

Because NTDs are spread by unsafe water sources and inadequate hygiene and sanitation, the deworming campaign promoted hygiene education among children by demonstrating proper hand washing techniques as a way to prevent future infections. And because some schools in the poorest areas didn’t have clean water, four water filters were installed in the municipalities of Marcovia and El Triunfo in Choluteca states, where 100,461 people will benefit from the equipment. The water filters will ensure the water drank by these school children is clean and free from parasitic worms.

Honduras is the first country in the Latin American and Caribbean region to launch a national plan addressing these diseases.  Since the launch of the plan in 2012, in addition to scaling up its national deworming campaign,  the Honduras Ministry of Health and its partners have developed eight department level operational plans and trained personnel from each department on NTD control-related activities.

This year, you helped END7 create a better future for more than a million school children in Honduras. But they’re not stopping there. With continued support from people like you, END7 is working to make sure these children continue to receive treatment year after year. Get involved in the movement by visiting www.end7.org. Together we can see the end.

Calling Attention to a Silent NTD – Chagas Disease

November 13th, 2013

Mother and Child in Guatemala_1

By Raquel Corona-Parra

Chagas disease, or American Trypanosomiasis, is one of the 17 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is primarily found in the Americas and it affects millions of people – however, like all NTDs, Chagas disease is a disease of poverty and its toll on the most vulnerable populations goes largely unnoticed.

It is WHO, the disease is now also affecting communities in the United States, Canada, and some areas of Europe and the Western Pacific.

Increased political attention is needed, particularly in Mexico and the United States, to put an end to this NTD. in its declaration, The Global Chagas Disease Coalition calls for access to existing health tools, innovation and a global R&D agenda, transmission control to prevent Chagas in endemic and non-endemic countries, and advocacy to ensure public and policy awareness of this NTD.

In addition, Sabin Vaccine Institute and other partners are working tirelessly to combat and draw attention to Chagas disease. As part of this effort, a group of partners including the Global Chagas Disease Coalition, Sabin Vaccine Institute, the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), Doctors Without Bordershttp//www.sabin.org']);">here.

It starts with a kissing bug

Chagas disease is caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi) and it is transmitted most commonly by triatomine bugs, better known as “kissing bugs.” These bugs, which live in the cracks of mud, adobe, and palm thatch houses, bite humans at night as they sleep, usually in the face. The bug defecates close to the bite, and the parasite T. cruzi enters the body when the person scratches at the bite. Chagas disease can also be transmitted through blood transfusion, congenital transmission, organ transplantation and consumption of contaminated foods.

Symptoms and treatment

Chagas disease presents itself in two stages. During the first stage, the acute phase, the parasites cause mild symptoms such as fever, headache, and enlarged lymph glands. The second stage is a chronic phase when the parasites are in the heart and digestive muscle, causing symptoms such as cardiac disorders, digestive and neurological disorders, and can lead to sudden death or heart failure. Treatment for the disease includes benznidazole and nifurtimox, which are most effective in curing Chagas soon after infection occurs. The Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Product Development Partnership is currently developing a vaccine for Chagas in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital, with support from the Slim Initiative for the Development of Neglected Tropical Disease Vaccines.

Recent Chagas efforts

In July, a group of experts gathered in El Salvador for the country’s first stressed that although disease incidence has reduced, there are still a considerable amount of people who die from the effects of this NTD. To address this, a new technical surveillance group was formed during the conference to expand upon the efforts to control Chagas disease in El Salvador. In Guatemala, the recently launched National Plan to control and eliminate NTDs includes Chagas control activities.

PAHO and WHO have also supported Chagas control efforts in affected subregions of Latin America, through the following Mundo Sano Foundation, a Global Network partner, works on entomological surveillance and home improvement activities to combat Chagas in rural areas of Argentina.

Efforts to draw increased attention to Chagas disease continue to push forward. Remember to tune into the live stream of “Advancing Life-Saving R&D Innovations for People Living with Chagas Disease – The Silent Killer” here, and stay-tuned for an update from the event.

Reducing Iron Deficiency Anemia Through Treatment for NTDs

November 4th, 2013

Photo by Olivier Asselin

Photo by Olivier Asselin

By Global Network NTD Special Envoy Dr. Mirta Roses

Iron deficiency is the most prevalent nutritional disorder in the world. It affects millions of children and women, primarily in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization (schistosomiasis (or snail fever). These NTDs cause blood loss, which leads to anemia and iron deficiency.

Iron deficiency anemia is known to complicate pregnancy, child birth, and early childhood growth and development. Approximately one-third of all pregnant women in developing countries are infected with hookworm, which contributes to iron deficiency anemia. Infection with genital schistosomiasis causes genital lesions, which have been associated with ectopic or tubal pregnancies, as well as increased risk of HIV infection. Addressing iron deficiency anemia needs to be a main component in all efforts to improve maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH).

The great news is that there are cost-effective solutions available today that can dramatically lower the rates of iron deficiency and anemia and improve the lives of millions of children and their mothers. The WHO developed a comprehensive strategy to address iron deficiency and anemia, which focuses on three main lines of action:

  • Increasing iron intake, by including iron-rich foods, food fortification and iron supplementation;
  • Controlling infection through immunizations and control programs for malaria, hookworm, and schistosomiasis; and
  • Improving nutritional status through vitamin B12, folate, and vitamin A supplements.

In the region of the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has been addressing these issues for several years, particularly during Vaccination Weeks. Vaccination Weeks in the Americas (VWA) have contributed significantly to the reduction of morbidity and mortality in all age groups, particularly among children. Since the first VWA was celebrated in 2003, VWA have served as the perfect platform for delivering comprehensive solutions to improving child health. Deworming treatment, iron “sparks” and vitamin A supplements are commonly distributed along with vaccines that protect children against preventable diseases such as measles, rubella, yellow fever, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, and influenza. By facilitating people’s iron intake and distributing deworming medication along with vaccines during vaccination weeks, children and pregnant women in all regions of the world can receive protection against the threats of iron deficiency and anemia.

The potential of using this platform for distributing iron supplements and deworming medication is significant – PAHO estimates that over 400 million people in the Americas have been vaccinated through the VWA. Throughout the world, other regions are also taking advantage of this opportunity through the WHO Regional Offices: the European Region (EURO) began holding its Immunization Week in 2005, followed by the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMRO) in 2010, the African Region (AFRO) and the Western Pacific Region (WPRO) in 2011, and finally, the South-East Asia Region (SEARO) in 2012. World Immunization Week is now a reality endorsed by the World Health Assembly to be celebrated every year around the third week of April. This major mobilization will carry other key interventions like deworming and iron supplements to every village.

The WHO program to jointly address iron deficiency and anemia is already being implemented in countries that have high levels of iron deficiency and anemia, malaria, and schistosomiasis and STH infections. It is our hope that through programs like this, along with the opportunities provided by vaccination weeks, the health burden caused by iron deficiency anemia will continue decreasing, so that mothers and children can have a real chance at growing healthy and thriving in life.

Dr. Mirta Roses Periago is an NTD Special Envoy for the Global Network and former Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Cholera and Health Inequity in Latin America and the Caribbean discussed on Capitol Hill

October 29th, 2013

Photo by Olivier Asselin

Photo by Olivier Asselin

By Raquel Corona-Parra

Health issues in Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) were featured on Capitol Hill last week during two briefing sessions discussing the regional inequities in health and the cholera epidemic in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Tackling Health Inequity in Latin America

Public Health in Latin America,” was hosted by Representative Sam Farr of California on Wednesday, October 23rd as part of an ongoing monthly briefing series called “Latin America on the Rise.” The series features a diverse group of speakers responsible for addressing emerging and emergent issues in the Western Hemisphere.

Dr. Carissa Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), said despite health achievements in the region, such as the elimination of polio and small pox and the recent WHO verification of onchocerciasis elimination in Colombia, the region remains characterized by significant health inequities.

“Despite the progress, the region is characterized by large differences in the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. This inequity among and within countries not only threatens the public’s health, it threatens human rights, economic prosperity, sustainable development, and stability throughout the region.”

Amanda Glassman, Director of Global Health Policy and Senior Fellow at the Salud Mesoamerica 2015 Initiative (a collaboration between the Carlos Slim Health Institute, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Inter-American Development Bank). However, more needs to be done, and she called on the government of the United States to increase its involvement with these issues in a framework of cooperation.

Conquering Cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic

The event on Thursday October 24th, titled Conquering Cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic: The Untold Story of Progress, provided members of Congress, their staff and partners in health issues an update on the status of the control efforts of the cholera epidemic on the Island of Hispaniola.

The cholera outbreak in Haiti and the Dominican Republic began in late 2010 – just a few months after the catastrophic earthquake devastated Haiti. Prior to this outbreak, cholera had not been reported in Haiti for more than 100 years. Around 715,000 people have gotten sick from the disease and more than 8,000 deaths have been attributed to the epidemic – with cases spreading to Cuba and Mexico.

Dr. Carissa Etienne stressed that although the oral cholera vaccine has helped, improvements in water and sanitation are essential for the epidemic to be stopped.

The event was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Karen A. Goraleski, Executive Director of the WASH Advocates).

As a response to the epidemic, several initiatives and programs were formed to tackle disease surveillance, food safety and access to clean water and sanitation throughout the region. For example, the 17% had access to sanitation in 2010.

These improvements in the infrastructure will also help reduce and eliminate other infectious diseases such as lymphatic filariasis (LF). LF, or elephantiasis, is a debilitating disease that is spread by mosquitoes and causes extreme swelling of the extremities. A group of Global Network partners are making significant progress in LF control and elimination efforts in Haiti. The partnership includes the Haitian government, the CDC, CBM, IMA World Health, the University of Notre Dame and the Envision Project, managed by RTI International and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. We believe it is partnerships like these – which are focusing on controlling and eliminating pervasive diseases of poverty like LF and cholera – that are enabling entire communities to break the cycle of poverty and disease.