Neglected tropical diseases such as trachoma and river blindness affect more than a billion people worldwide and can cause severe and lifelong impairment.
Sightsavers and partners have distributed more than one billion NTD treatments to protect people from these diseases and stop them spreading. The treatments are delivered by volunteers from the local area, known as community directed distributors (CDDs), who travel from house to house to make sure all local residents receive medication. But without extensive medical training, how do the volunteers know what dosage to give to each patient?
That’s where the dose pole comes in. This simple, light, universal device is used to measure the height of men, women and children. The clear markings on the pole make it easy for people without high levels of literacy to calculate and record the correct dose for each patient, depending on how tall they are.
Each distributor is given their own dose pole. When delivering medication, they ask people to stand next to the pole so their height can be measured. The distributor then gives them the correct number of tablets, represented by dots on the pole.
Community directed distributor Baraka Ango, from Kudaru in north-west Nigeria, says: “When the community see us with this stick, they will say: ‘Health worker, you are coming, we will come and collect our drugs.’ They are happy to see us with this stick. I love this stick because it represents us as CDDs in our community.”
By measuring a person’s height, rather than their weight, distributors don’t need to carry and constantly configure scales, which are more expensive and can be more difficult to read. The dose pole is often decorated in patterns, colours and markings unique to the community, and can be made from a variety of materials.