During the month of October, END7 student supporters are celebrating NTD Success Stories from four countries — Haiti, India, Sierra Leone and the Philippines — that have overcome incredible obstacles to make progress towards NTD control and elimination. This week’s success story comes from Sierra Leone, where inspiring efforts are being made to fight NTDs in the wake of the Ebola epidemic.
Six NTDs are found in all 14 health districts in Sierra Leone, threatening nearly the entire population of the country. Sierra Leone faces many health and development challenges, but the government has exerted strong leadership in the fight against NTDs. By 2004, the national NTD program had successfully mapped the prevalence of targeted NTDs nationwide, and in 2005 they launched a mass drug administration (MDA) campaign to treat every at-risk community with the participation of nearly 30,000 volunteer community drug distributors. Supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health had distributed more than 57 million NTD treatments nationwide by the beginning of 2014. As a result of these efforts, the country was on track to begin the World Health Organization process of verifying the elimination of lymphatic filariasis (LF) in eight of 14 health districts in 2014. Unfortunately, when the West African Ebola epidemic reached Sierra Leone in May of that year, all public health program activities were suspended as the country raced to stop the spread of Ebola. As a result, the Sierra Leone NTD Program was unable to carry out MDA in 2014, interrupting progress towards LF elimination.
But today, the government of Sierra Leone and partner organizations are working hard make up for lost time. In May of 2015, on the heels of nationwide malaria and vaccination campaigns, MDA restarted in Sierra Leone. Just this month, from October ninth to 13th
The relaunch of MDA this year required careful preparation, including refresher training session for community drug distributors and program administrators. Extensive social mobilization campaigns, aimed at educating communities still reeling from the Ebola epidemic about the importance of participating in MDA, were conducted through community meetings and radio spots. As a result of this careful preparation, early indications are that Sierra Leone’s 2015 MDAs have been successful.
The consistent key to Sierra Leone’s inspiring success tackling NTDs before and after the Ebola epidemic has been the leadership and commitment of volunteer community drug distributors. Elected by their communities, these volunteers reach the most remote corners of the country, enabling Sierra Leone to consistently achieve treatment coverage above 75 percent in targeted communities.
Given Sierra Leone’s small geographic size, the strong political support of the government and the commitment of the volunteer community drug distributors who form the backbone of MDA programs, the country is in the unique position to become one of the first countries in Africa to control snail fever and intestinal worms and eliminate river blindness and elephantiasis. Sierra Leone’s NTD program has also successfully demonstrated that MDA can be achieved in highly populated urban settings. But additional support is needed. By integrating NTD treatment with schools and other health programs, millions of people at risk for NTDs can live free of these diseases of poverty and their devastating effects including malnutrition, disability, social stigmatization and a loss of productivity.
Sierra Leone’s progress against NTDs despite the challenges posed by the Ebola epidemic should inspire other countries to redouble their efforts to address these diseases. Now more than ever, support for robust public health efforts like Sierra Leone’s NTD Program is needed to build on this impressive progress. END7 supporters are eager to celebrate Sierra Leone’s progress and look forward to celebrating more milestones as the country moves closer to its ultimate goal of controlling and eliminating NTDs.
END7 donations go a long way, especially since 100 percent of donations made go directly to NTD treatment programs in Asia, Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, the regions with the largest NTD burdens.
This money helps train the community health workers that deliver the NTD medicine to communities, fund educational materials that teach kids how to prevent NTDs, support the delivery of NTD medicine to remote areas, provide clean water to communities and strengthen these country’s abilities to help their own people who suffer daily from NTDs.
These parasitic and bacterial diseases infect 1.4 billion people worldwide, causing unnecessary suffering and trapping families in poverty.
Dedicated partners, including ministries of health and education, governments, regional institutions like the END7 campaign – work hard to support countries around the world that are plagued by NTDs. seventy-four countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America have already developed plans to control and eliminate NTDs. But often these countries lack the money or resources necessary to carry out their plans year after year.
Together, we’re making real progress. Because of the dedicated support of people like you, girls like Pwint Yamone-Thin are healthy, active and free of NTDs; Kids like Neema and Fatuma Kahindi have a brighter future.
See the projects END7 donations supported and the impact they’re are making on the lives of those who needlessly suffer from NTDs.
While we’ve done so much together, we must continue to support those suffering from NTDs. By donating to END7 today, you’ll ensure that more children around the world live happy and healthy lives. Your support means that governments around the world can continue to provide NTD treatment to their most vulnerable populations – and end NTDs once and for all. Donate now.
By Romina Rodríguez Pose, independent consultant on international development and lead author for the Health Dimension case studies, Development Progress Project.
Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) affect the poorest billion people in the world. They cause number of chronic health conditions that largely limit people’s ability to study and work and consequently have a healthy and productive life. The stigma attached to them can also lead to isolation and fear for those who suffer.
Although they have been long ignored within international and national agendas, in the last decades, there has been an increasing awareness of how NTDs can impede endemic countries from achieving public-private partnerships involving major drug donations from key pharmaceutical companies, the development of inexpensive control strategies and a growing number of donors earmarking funding for integrated NTD control.
Cambodia in Asia. In spite of their different contexts and epidemiological profiles, three drivers have emerged in both case studies:
1. Advances in the fight against NTDs have been driven by the availability of earmarked funds and donated drugs. These have been crucial for both resource-constrained countries, since most endemic countries are faced with several competing, and perhaps more urgent, health issues (such as high mortality rates for mothers and children in Sierra Leone and dengue outbreaks in Cambodia). As a counterpart, political will and local engagement to take advantage of global initiatives have been crucial in bringing NTDs within the national agenda. Both governments, through their Ministries of Health, have proactively looked for partners, secured funds and drugs donations and made important efforts to develop local capacity.
2. There is an important transitional role for development partners in providing access to strategies and guidelines on how to deal with NTDs until local capacity is fully developed. In both countries, this was achieved through bilateral, regional and global partnerships that helped build the local knowledge base for endemic countries to find their own solutions and to implement strategies according to the particular context. These dynamics between development partners and NTD programme managers have gradually led to a ‘transfer of ownership’ of the NTD programmes.
3. The integration of NTD activities within an existing government structure has been vital to set up cost-effective NTD programmes. Both countries have integrated the distribution of drugs within health and education systems. In Cambodia, given the main threat is from intestinal worms which particularly affect school-aged children, progress has been achieved by integrating the distribution of drugs into the school system and turning teachers into twice-yearly doctors/pharmacists. In Sierra Leone, given that the entire population is at risk from at least three NTDs, the main strategy involved the engagement and training of community members as drug distributors. Elected by their communities, their work is divided into catchment areas for which they are responsible, reaching the most remote corners of the country.
Despite the increasing awareness of their importance, NTDs still loom large in the cycles of poverty, ill-health and under-development that afflict too many developing countries. Yes, as Sierra Leone and Cambodia show, progress can be achieved in the most difficult contexts and with minimal resources, stressing the importance of including NTD control and elimination targets within the post-2015 sustainable development goals.
All photos by Romina Rodríguez Pose.
Sierra Leone’s Kono district is home to some of the highest rates of schistosomiasis in the country. Nearly 2 million people here are infected by this painful and sometimes-deadly neglected tropical disease (NTD).
Susan Matthews, a community health worker from Boroma village in Kono District, is on a mission to fight schistosomiasis in her community. We’re highlighting the important impact of her work, and the work of others like her, this World Health Workers Week. Health workers like Susan help sustain quality health care in rural communities by both treating and educating their communities about effective ways to prevent various diseases, including NTDs.
Susan’s work has an immense impact on people like Sahr Gando, a miner in Kono district. Sahr Gando became infected with schistosomiasis after spending hours a day mining for diamonds in infested waters. But through Mass Drug Administration (MDA), Susan is able to distribute medications to Sahr Gando and the rest of the community. After receiving medication, those treated will be freed from NTDs for one year.
But Susan’s work doesnt stop there. Together with other health workers, Susan educates the community about the medication and how to prevent getting the disease.
“If you just come and drop the drugs, it will not be effective,” says Susan. “So we have to help educate them so that they know about the drug and the disease. We have to keep talking, talking, talking, talking, and then they will accept.”
Thanks to committed health workers like Susan, rural communities can have access to medication and also acquire knowledge about schistosomiasis prevention.
Luckily, people like Susan exist around the world. This February, we were fortunate enough to meet several other dedicated health workers in India.
Health Workers at Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) are helping those with lymphatic filariasis (LF) in Orissa, India. LF is a painful and disfiguring NTD that impacts more than 20 million people in the country. The devoted health workers at CASA help with disease management for individuals that have LF by cleansing and removing bacteria from their legs. Abhishek Bachchan, has also worked with health workers in Orissa, India in an effort to help those that suffer from LF.
Health workers are uniquely positioned to have an incredible impact on health outcomes around the world because they understand the needs of their communities and they also have the trust of community members. Health workers also build individual and community capacity by increasing health knowledge among communities and promoting community empowerment.
We’d like to thank Susan Matthews, the health workers in Orissa, India, and all health workers across the globe that continue to fight NTDs in their communities.
Watch and learn more about the great and essential work that Susan Matthews is doing in Sierre Leone here.