To help tackle this issue, UK aid is funding the UNITED project: between 2013 and 2017 it has delivered 116 million treatments for neglected tropical diseases in Nigeria. The project aims to strengthen Nigeria’s health system to help the country manage NTDs sustainably in the long-term. It also seeks to streamline drug supply chains to ensure that at-risk communities in Nigeria are getting the support they need.
Sightsavers leads the UNITED consortium, which has so far reached 26 million people who live in five states of northern Nigeria: Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger and Zamfara. The project targets blinding trachoma, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis, river blindness and three types of intestinal worms (hookworm, whipworm and roundworm).
These NTDs are treated with drugs that are distributed by a vast network of community volunteers, also known as community-directed distributors or CDDs. Many CDDs have first-hand experience of how these diseases affect lives, having seen a family member or a neighbour infected.
The project is the result of collaboration between the Nigerian government, Sightsavers and non-governmental development organisations CBM, HKI and MITOSATH. Several private-sector providers are also involved (Health Partners International, Crown Agents and Accenture Development Partners), as well as academic institutions (Schistosomiasis Initiative of Imperial College, and The Filariasis Support Programme of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine).
The Department for International Development (DFID) awarded the UNITED programme an A+ rating, which means that it is exceeding targets.