A Sightsavers-led programme in Africa has surpassed several of its first-year targets as it delivers more than 127 million drug treatments for five debilitating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
The Ascend West Africa and Central Africa programme, part of Ascend, the UK aid flagship health programme, delivered nine million treatments more than originally envisioned during its first year of operation.
This achievement came despite the outbreak of COVID-19 and the postponement in late March of mass drug administration, which is now gradually being re-instated. Surgery, home-based care and ongoing clinical treatment continued where it was safe to do so.
“It has been an extremely successful first year achieved through close collaboration with governments, our partners and communities. These large-scale cross-national programmes are not only effective prevention, they help grow stronger and more resilient public health systems to support the more sustainable elimination of diseases,” said Simon Bush, director of NTDs at Sightsavers.
The three-year programme to transform millions of lives by treating trachoma, river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis and intestinal worms is led by Sightsavers in collaboration with the SCI Foundation, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Mott MacDonald.
In March, the programme also launched an unprecedented adaptation of the programme to help combat COVID-19. This included strengthening contact tracing and surveillance systems and developing and promoting COVID-19 prevention messaging through mass media campaigns, ensuring that they also reached people with disabilities and other populations at risk.
Some of the achievements of the programme include:
- Supporting health ministries in the Democratic Republic of Congo to deliver more than 48 million treatments for four NTDs, eight million over the original target.
- Providing 59 million treatments in Nigeria, including 18 million for river blindness. Follow-up surveys in two states subsequently showed that river blindness cases had decreased to a level where provisional approval was given to stop treatment campaigns there.
- Supporting treatment delivered to over 1.7 million school-age children across 28 endemic districts in Côte d’Ivoire in its first year – 151,000 over target.
- Specifically targeting schistosomiasis treatments campaigns at school-age children and adults expected to be at higher risk of infection.
- Supported the training of more than 375,000 community volunteers and teachers to deliver the treatments for five NTDs across the 13 programme countries.