More than 35 million treatments were given out in 2020 as part of global efforts to tackle neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), despite the challenges of COVID-19.
The announcement comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) launches a new NTD elimination road map on 28 January and the NTD community marks World NTD Day on 30 January.
Despite the pandemic, in 2020 Sightsavers and partners supported governments to deliver the millions of NTD treatments to combat these preventable and treatable infections that affect more than one billion people worldwide.
In total, ministries of health in 11 African countries delivered more than 35 million preventative treatments for NTDs, with 135 million more treatments due to be delivered by March 2021.
Tens of thousands of community health volunteers and teachers were trained to meet the challenges of COVID-19 while delivering NTD treatments. To make programmes safer, special measures such as masks and social distancing were introduced.
Following lockdown, Nigeria was the first Sightsavers-supported country to resume work on tackling NTDs. Between July and September, around one million people in the northwestern state of Jigawa received antibiotics to treat the painful and potentially blinding disease, trachoma.
In Liberia, Sightsavers quickly adapted its Ascend programme to support the government to address this humanitarian crisis, deploying contact tracers and raising awareness of how the disease spreads.
Simon Bush, director of NTDs at Sightsavers, said: “It is vital that our work continues in these challenging times. NTDs can cause severe debilitating and lifelong physical and visual impairment, and the science tells us that they can be eliminated.
“We need to make sure not only that gains already made are not lost but that we continue to support some of the most marginalised communities even when times are difficult.”
To mark World NTD Day this year, iconic buildings around the world, including the Colosseum in Rome and The Great Wall of China, will be lit up to celebrate hard-earned progress to combat NTDs and to call on the global community to work to eliminate them.