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UNITED in Nigeria

The six-year UNITED programme, funded by UK aid, delivered 158 million treatments in Nigeria to tackle neglected tropical diseases.

What we’ve learned from the UNITED programme

Read the report (pdf)

Between 2013 and 2019, the UNITED programme delivered 15 million more treatments than originally envisaged to protect people against debilitating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

Thanks to support from UK aid, partners and an integrated approach, the programme has protected 26 million Nigerians from multiple diseases.

From the start, UNITED focused on sustainability. The programme worked with the state and national ministries of health to improve health systems by training surgeons and healthcare staff, providing equipment, helping to gather data, developing ways to monitor health, streamlining drug supply chains and raising awareness about the causes and treatments of NTDs.

Watch the video below to learn more about the project.

A community distributor holding a dose pole.

One billion treatments

Sightsavers and partners have reached a historic milestone in the fight against these diseases.

About our achievement

How did the programme work?

Sightsavers led the UNITED consortium: together with partners, it helped to reach communities at risk of NTDs in five states of northern Nigeria: Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger and Zamfara. The project’s integrated approach meant it could target blinding trachoma, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis, river blindness and three types of intestinal worms (hookworm, whipworm and roundworm).

These NTDs were treated with drugs 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 affected.

A volunteer community distributor.

Exceeding targets

The Department for International Development (DFID) awarded the UNITED programme an A+ rating, meaning it exceeded its targets.

What did the programme achieve?

A community volunteer hands a tablet to treat NTDs to a young boy.

Improved healthcare

The programme helped to improve Nigeria’s healthcare system to ensure NTDs could be treated and prevented in the long-term. It also streamlined drug supply chains to ensure at-risk communities were supported.

Baby Umaru is given antibiotics to protect him against trachoma.

Progress against NTDs

It made considerable progress towards eliminating several NTDs in Nigeria. In Kaduna, Kano and Niger, the spread of lymphatic filariasis has now been stopped in 13 areas, meaning 2.9 million people are no longer at risk.

Women carry containers of water on their heads as they return from a river in the village of Garamach in Kaduna, Nigeria.

Pioneering treatment

It pioneered schistosomiasis and trachoma treatment in Kano, Niger, Kaduna and Katsina, the latter having never done mass drug administration. Two states can now assess whether the disease has been eliminated.

Looking to the future

There is a lot of important knowledge from the UNITED programme that will be used in new NTD initiatives. What’s more, the health systems that the programme helped to improve will ensure that Nigeria can continue to tackle these debilitating diseases in the future.

However, despite the success of the programme and its legacy, Nigeria still carries the highest NTD burden in Africa, and the global mission to eliminate NTDs has not yet been achieved. More funding, collaboration and support is needed to rid Nigeria of NTDs. Together we can enhance the health, quality of life and future wellbeing of people affected by these painful, poverty-trapping conditions.

Which organisations were involved?
The programme was carried out in collaboration with the Federal and State Ministries of Health in Nigeria by a consortium led by Sightsavers, with Accenture, Crown Agents, Helen Keller International, CBM/HANDS, MITOSATH and DAI.

Community designated distributors in Kaduna State, Nigeria pose for a photo outside the local health centre.

What the UNITED programme taught us

“Delivering integrated treatment on such a large scale means being constantly prepared to adapt our programming.”

Read the blog

Want to learn about our work on NTDs?

Neglected tropical diseases

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Rebecca takes a selfie with Dorcas, in Nigeria.
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The personal stories behind Sightsavers’ billionth milestone

In Nigeria, Sightsavers' Rebecca Mintrim joined celebrations for the one billionth NTD treatment.

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A young male and female are standing on a dirt path.
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Five years ago I was one of the people that gathered together in London in a groundbreaking meeting to talk about neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

Simon Bush, January 2017
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WHO announces progress on trachoma elimination

In 2016, 85 million people were treated with an antibiotic to protect against trachoma, according to new data from the World Health Organization.

July 2017