Posts Tagged: “Africa”

7 Reasons Why Sierra Leone is Winning Against Neglected Tropical Diseases

by Dr. Mary Hodges, Country Director, Helen Keller International – Sierra Leone

The following article was published on The Guardian Global Development Professionals Network on June 24, 2014. It was originally commissioned as part of the Development Progress series.

Children relax in a lobby in Aberdeen street of Freetown, Sierra Leone. The country has made significant progress in eliminating NTDs. Photograph: Alamy

Children relax in a lobby in Aberdeen street of Freetown, Sierra Leone. The country has made significant progress in eliminating NTDs. Photograph: Alamy

Despite poverty and a recent civil war, Sierra Leone has rapidly expanded treatment for NTDs. What can other countries learn?

The Lancet recently published a report on gains made towards reaching the 2020 neglected tropical disease (NTD) elimination goals set by the 2012 London declaration. Despite being one of the world’s poorest countries, Sierra Leone, in particular, has made incredible strides.

Before the current NTD control programme, approximately half of the districts saw over 50% of their children infected with schistosomiasis (snail fever) before they reached 14. By 2010 mass drug administration had reached, and has since maintained, 100% geographic coverage of those at risk of NTDs, outperforming neighbouring countries.

This rapid progress has been unexpected in the post-conflict setting. By the end of the rebel war in 2002, most health facilities were damaged, ill-equipped and their staff and communities traumatised. Many health professionals had been evacuated during the war and had little opportunity or incentives to return.

While sustained funding from USAid is one explanation behind the country’s success, other countries like Nigeria, with strong funding and better resourced health sectors and public communications systems, have not made the same level of progress. So why has progress in NTD control in Sierra Leone been so swift? Here are some key lessons behind Sierra Leone’s success. more…

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Categories Africa, Preventing Blindness

Timbuktu, Terrorism, Trachoma

For centuries Mali has been known for the mythical city of Timbuktu. Unfortunately, events in the last two years have also made it known for terrorism. In public health circles it has long been known as a major part of the trachoma belt – a band of Africa where the leading infectious cause of blindness is concentrated. Our trip up North made us hope that Timbuktu will be resurgent and that the days of terrorism will be but distant, if painful, memories. Today’s trip also gave great hope that trachoma, which has caused so much suffering for generations of Malians, will be consigned to the past and that the country can look forward to a future free of this scourge.

We are accompanying a columnist from The New York Times, Nick Kristof, and his annual “Win-A-Trip” participant, Erin Luhmann and their videographer, Ben Solomon during their West Africa visit. Today we left the capital of Mali, Bamako, to head to the Kita district. more…

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Categories Africa, Preventing Blindness

Canadian Government Recommits to Vitamin A Supplementation

One of the most fulfilling experiences in my career was on a June day in 1999 on the far side of the Niger River in Niamey, Niger, more…

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Categories Africa

NTDs and WASH Programs

How NTD programs can work with WASH programs for common goal of improved public health

This post was written by Chad MacArthur, Helen Keller International’s Director of Neglected Tropical Disease Control and originally appeared as the first of many NTD Spotlights on the brand new ENVISION website.

There is no question that mass drug administration (MDA) has had an enormous impact on disease burden but it needs to be recognized that these diseases are public health problems and our response to them needs to be through public health interventions that are beyond just preventive chemotherapy (PC).  These diseases must be dealt with within a broader socio-economic development context.  One of the key elements that will sustain the gains made by MDA for trachoma, soil transmitted helminths and schistosomiasis is the increased access to safe water, improved sanitation and the promotion of hygiene; commonly referred to as WASH.  Integrating WASH with PC and promoting the behaviors that accompany WASH allows for a comprehensive control strategy such as trachoma has promoted for a number of years through the SAFE strategy. more…

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Categories Africa