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Our recipe to eliminate NTDs

Learn how Sightsavers and partners are combining all the vital ingredients to banish neglected tropical diseases for good.

Illustration of someone stirring a large cauldron of liquid over an open fire.

Ingredients

  • Communities
  • Governments
  • Donors
  • Partners
  • Health workers
  • Community volunteers

    How they work together
  • Neglected tropical diseases affect more than a billion people around the world and can cause severe and lifelong impairment.

    Yet they can be prevented, treated and, in many cases, eliminated.

    The recipe to eliminate neglected tropical diseases brings together a variety of ingredients: the communities, partners, health workers, donors and governments who are needed to banish NTDs.

    When all of these are combined, we can create a society free from the burden of NTDs where communities can thrive.

    Follow our recipe below to learn how together we can beat NTDs.

    Preparation time

    Our aim is to eliminate neglected tropical diseases in the countries where we work by 2030.

    Serving size

    More than a billion people worldwide who are affected by these diseases.

    The survey team for the Onchocerciasis Elimination Mapping project in Mozambique walk through the community.

    Step 1: Carry out initial surveys

    The survey team for the Onchocerciasis Elimination Mapping project in Mozambique walk through the community.

    To beat neglected tropical diseases, governments need to first understand which communities are at risk. By carrying out comprehensive surveys, governments and their partners can identify the geographical areas where a disease is present, then treat people living in those areas.

    It’s also important for these surveys to follow a standardised format, so this vital data can be shared between districts, regions and countries.

    Meet Clécio and Silvia, who are helping to track the prevalence of river blindness in Mozambique

    A school student smiles in the classroom. She's wearing a mask on her chin.

    “It went well – I don’t have a tummy ache any more!”
    Norbertine, Cameroon

    Step 2: Roll out treatment programmes

    The most effective way to eliminate most NTDs is by distributing preventative medicine to people at risk. We know it takes a global village to eliminate a disease, and thanks to partners, donors and pharmaceutical companies who donate treatments to fight NTDs, we are able to reach those most at risk.

    By putting local communities at the centre of these efforts, we can ensure medication reaches the right people, and that those people feel comfortable accepting treatment.

    How we’re protecting thousands of children from intestinal worms each year

    Salifat sits down with her right leg in a bowl. A health care worker stands next her pouring water on her leg from a teapot.

    Step 3: Manage the burden of disease among patients

    Salifat sits down with her right leg in a bowl. A health care worker stands next her pouring water on her leg from a teapot.

    Distributing medication is an important way to eliminate a disease. However, for people who are already living with NTDs, it’s also important to manage the symptoms and effects of these diseases.

    There are many ways to tackle the burden of disease, including surgery and training to manage the symptoms of infection. This can help to improve people’s wellbeing, reduce the stigma they may face because of their condition, and lessen the overall burden on health systems.

    Hear from Salifat and her daughter, Mainna, about how training has helped her get back on her feet

    Step 4: Carry out research

    NTD programmes should be supported by high-quality research. This can help organisations to find new solutions and add to global knowledge about eliminating NTDs.

    Global research is being carried out in areas including medication, vector control, data collection and use, and how to include remote populations in treatment programmes.

    How mosquitoes are helping us to research the spread of disease in Liberia

    A woman collects mosquito samples from a flooded area in Liberia.
    A group of community volunteers aboard a small motor boat in the middle of the sea, on their way to the Bijagos islands in Guinea-Bissau.

    Step 5: Leave no one behind

    A group of community volunteers aboard a small motor boat in the middle of the sea, on their way to the Bijagos islands in Guinea-Bissau.

    The poorest and most marginalised people in society are often most at risk of contracting an NTD. For this reason, programmes to treat the diseases must focus on ensuring no one is left out. 

    This could involve helping the elderly and people with disabilities to access medical care, analysing data to find out whether communities are missing out on treatment, and going the extra mile to find and treat people in remote areas. 

    Join Sightsavers’ Iliezer on his journey to treat NTDs in the remote Bijagos Islands

    A group of seven schoolchildren gather around a table where they are playing a board game.

    “Thanks to the game, we have learned about the importance
    of hygiene.”
    Charles, Kenya

    Step 6: Work across sectors

    To beat NTDs we must work in partnership, and one key example is the collaboration between the NTD sector and the water, sanitation and health (WASH) sector. Many NTDs spread more easily in areas where there isn’t enough access to water and sanitation, so improving WASH infrastructure can have a big impact in the fight against disease. By combining data from these sectors, governments and partners can learn where investment is needed.

    Many WASH initiatives are underpinned by social behaviour change, which aims to improve people’s health by influencing their knowledge, attitudes and social norms. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for the WASH approach, as customs and practices are culturally unique so the method needs to be tailored to each area.

    Read about playful innovations that are spreading the WASH message to children in Ethiopia, Guinea and Kenya

    Two health workers wearing surgical masks takes a blood sample from a young boy's finger..

    Step 7: More surveys

    Two health workers wearing surgical masks takes a blood sample from a young boy's finger..

    As a country gets closer to eliminating an NTD, it will need to invest in further surveys. These surveys can show whether drug treatment programmes have reduced the prevalence of disease to a level where mass treatments can stop, and individual cases can be managed by the country’s primary health system.

    Once this has been established, countries can apply to the World Health Organization (WHO), for official validation or verification that they have eliminated an NTD. 

    Learn how surveys in Mali are paving the way to eliminate river blindness

    Two health workers, one wearing scrubs, look at papers and a mobile phone while gathering data. A patient with her eyes bandaged sits in the background.

    Step 8: Improve data collection

    Most countries have a national health information system that acts as a central hub for data about health services. However, data from NTD programmes is not always included, meaning the programmes are less visible and may miss out on government funding.

    To eliminate these diseases, governments need to make sure they are collecting data about treatment programmes and the prevalence of disease, and that they have the resources and processes in place to act on the data.

    Trachoma trackers in action: how mobile phones are gathering data to save sight

    Dressed in surgical scrubs, Samson performs trachoma surgery on a woman outside under a canopy. Two male eye health workers, who are also dressed in surgical scrubs, are on hand to assist.

    Step 9: Improve local healthcare

    Dressed in surgical scrubs, Samson performs trachoma surgery on a woman outside under a canopy. Two male eye health workers, who are also dressed in surgical scrubs, are on hand to assist.

    Before announcing that a disease has been eliminated as a public health problem, a government must prove that its health system is equipped to manage any remaining cases. 

    To work properly, the system needs trained staff, solid infrastructure, a reliable supply of medicine and equipment, and adequate funding. Services need to be available close to where people live, and must be accessible for all. 

    How local trachoma surgeons such as Samson are bringing eye care to remote areas of Kenya

    Final step: Declare elimination!

    This step, which everyone is aiming for, represents a massive achievement for governments and their partners. However, this is not the end: countries will need to maintain the structures for carrying out surveillance surveys to ensure that the disease does not resurface. Governments will also need to continue investing in health infrastructure and staff training to make sure that when people do catch NTDs, the health system is able to treat them. 

    Sightsavers has supported both Ghana and The Gambia in their efforts to eliminate trachoma. Balla Musa Joof, who was Sightsavers’ country director for The Gambia during the trachoma elimination programme, said: “After decades of hard work, our children can grow up without fear of this disease, and our government can direct resources toward tackling other health issues.” 

    Meet the people involved in The Gambia’s trachoma elimination, and read about Ghana’s achievement

    Watch our video to learn about trachoma elimination in The Gambia

    A group of women sing, dance, and clap their hands.

    “We have shown that elimination is possible. It’s a huge task, but with collaboration and partnership, it can be done.”
    Balla Musa Joof, Sightsavers

    A group of women sing, dance, and clap their hands.

    Read more about our work to eliminate NTDs

    Sightsavers and NTDs