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
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.
Tags: 2020, 2020 elimination, Africa, elimination, London Declaration, mobile technology, Neglected Tropical Diseases, NTD eliminiation, NTDs, NTDs elimination, post-conflict, Preventing Blindness, Sierra Leone, USAID
Categories Africa, Preventing Blindness
This blog post was written by Anitra Sprauten. Anitra graduated from Bowdoin College in 2012 with a degree in Government & Legal Studies and French. Originally from New York, she is finishing up the academic year as an English teaching assistant at the University of Western Brittany in France. She hopes to return working with INGOs to improve standards of public education and public health in less economically developed countries.
Overlooking Kroo Bay in Freetown
Overlooking the city from a steep hill in Tengbeh Town, the Helen Keller International (HKI) office in Freetown, Sierra Leone is frequented by visitors from many sectors. HKI does a wonderful job of coordinating its efforts with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and other non-governmental organizations, so while the office itself is not very large, its reach spans the entire country.
For many, Sierra Leone is a country of extreme hardship. Maternal and child mortality rates are very high and the general population lives with very little income. However, residents of Freetown have a profound entrepreneurial spirit, and those who do not have steady employment work as petty traders. The city experienced a rapid boom of urbanization, and as the population continues to grow, Freetown continues to catch up.
This blog originally appeared on the Huffington Post as part of GivingTuesday initiative.
After flying from New York City to Dakar to Banjul to Freetown, riding a bus to a dock and a boat across a bay to a 4X4 truck that travels up and down roads that transition from broken pavement to muddy earth, I stand at the front of a classroom – one that is empty of children. Today, 30 adults sit in row after row of benches, some bending forward with heads propped on elbows as if they have been waiting a long time. And they have.
An interview with HKI's Program Manager for Neglected Tropical Disease Control
In honor of World Water Day, I am highlighting Helen Keller International’s Program Manager for Neglected Tropical Disease Control, Emily Toubali. One of her responsibilities it to manage our Trachoma Control Programs, a major component of which is promoting face-washing and proper sanitation to prevent this blinding disease. I recently sat down with Emily and asked her about her background, what drew her to the career she has today, and why water is so important to global health.
Tags: Emily Toubali, Lymphatic Filariasis, Mali, Neglected Tropical Diseases, Niger, Sierra Leone, Trachoma, Water and Sanitation
Categories Africa, Helen Keller, Preventing Blindness, Staff Profiles
Eliminating Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) as a Public Health Threat in Sierra Leone
Imagine waking up one day and your leg starts to swell. It is very painful and no matter what you do, your leg continues to fill with fluid. This is exactly what happened to Hannah Araba Taylor, who has spent her entire life in the Congo Town section of Freetown, Sierra Leone.
One morning twenty-five years ago, Hannah woke up shivering; her entire leg was swollen and very red. Although she didn’t know it yet, she had been infected by the parasite that causes Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) – known locally as “big fut” – a painful Neglected Tropical Disease resulting in disfigurement and swelling that is common among the poor. Although the disease is not life-threatening, it often leaves the infected person so disabled she is unable to work. In addition to the pain, the disfigurement can also create social stigma.
Shawn Baker describes his visit to a health center with Nicholas Kristof
Shawn Baker continues his travels with NY Times Journalist, Nicholas Kristof, and the two winners of his “Win-A-Trip” contest. Below is his second post.
My only prior trip to Mauritania was in 1987 when I visited the capital, Nouakchott. Having spent over two decades since living in or visiting 30 other African countries, I was not excepting to be surprised. However, from the time we left Senegal last Thursday – my home for the past eight years – to arriving back today, it was a constant source of amazement. Who could have known that all that separated me from a vastly different country was a ferry ride across the Senegal River?
The road between Nouakchott and the border with Senegal is the major economic lifeline of the country but it is hard to imagine that this narrow strip of macadam, eaten away by sand and salt air, regularly covered with sand dunes, and filled with bone-jarring potholes, is what facilitates commerce between two countries; the overall impression is a sparsely populated moonscape.
We stopped at a few places along the way to chat with villagers, so Nick could interview a lactating camel, and finally to visit a health center in the largest town between Nouakchott and Rosso.
An interview with HKI's President and CEO
Have you ever dreamt about having more fun at your job, or wondered why some people really look forward to going to work every day? Ask Kathy Spahn, President and Chief Executive Officer of Helen Keller International, about her work. Even after five years, she still feels rewarded and energized by her job. I recently asked Kathy to tell us about her journey to HKI and what inspires her the most.
Tags: Homestead Food Production, Kathy Spahn, Nepal, Onchocerciasis, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Trachoma, Vitamin A
Categories Africa, Asia-Pacific, Helen Keller, Preventing Blindness, Reducing Malnutrition, Staff Profiles, United States