Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is still suffering from armed conflict, years after the Congolese civil war officially ended. It has also been deeply affected by Ebola, as well as a number of public health problems such as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). It is thought that of the country’s population of 84 million people, about 50 million are at risk of and need treatment for NTDs, which can cause excruciating pain, disability and trap people in poverty.
In response, the United Front Against River Blindness (UFAR) and Sightsavers work in collaboration in DRC to support the Ministry of Health in the fight against NTDs. Together, we are aiming to eliminate river blindness and lymphatic filariasis (LF) and control schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminths (STH) in the country.
This work couldn’t happen without the support of the British public and the Department for International Development (DFID) which, through its UK Aid Match scheme in 2015, started funding river blindness and LF elimination activities. This work has been taking place in Ituri North and Katanga South projects through Sightsavers and UFAR. In 2017, funding from GiveWell was secured through Sighstavers to help address gaps in schistosomiasis and STH treatment that were identified through surveys carried out in Ituri North.
The Ituri North NTD project borders with Ituri South, which still has sporadic tribal conflict, and this instability has led to mass migration of people from the south to the north. What’s more, the few cases of Ebola detected in Tshiomia and Mandima in Ituri South (about 100km from the project area) could prevent treatments being distributed to people at risk of NTDs. Amid these ever-changing dynamics, the valiant hearts in the communities – the volunteer community directed distributors (CDDs) – have braved the odds alongside the health workers to ensure mass distribution of treatments is not interrupted. These workers regularly receive guidance from their local authorities, the Ministry of Health and the Congolese military to ensure treatments are delivered safely.