Did you know?
Lymphatic filariasis is a major public health concern in Haiti.
What is it, you ask.
Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is a debilitating disease spread through mosquitoes. If a person is infected, they may experience high fevers and eventually begin to develop swollen limbs – a condition known as elephantiasis.
If the swelling is advanced, their lives are changed forever, making it difficult to perform daily chores and earn money to support a family. If left untreated, damage to the skin can open the door to infection, complicating treatment and possibly endangering their life. According to the World Health Organization, more than 120 million people are infected world-wide, negatively impacting families, communities and ultimately entire countries.
Countries like Haiti.
Unfortunately, there is no cure if a person already has LF. That means the focus must be on prevention of the disease and managing the care of people who are already infected.Thankfully, medication to prevent LF and other neglected tropical diseases is being distributed to the people of Haiti at no charge through the Haiti NTD Control Program. Generous grants from donors like USAID, the Gates Foundation, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have helped support the program.
The program recently achieved national coverage, a significant milestone in the effort to eliminate LF in Haiti. This means everyone who can receive medication to prevent LF has the opportunity to take part in annual mass drug administration (MDA) when the medication is distributed through the community and schools.
With USAID funds made available in 2008, IMA World Health began working with the Ministry of Health and Population (MSPP), the Ministry of Education (MOE) and other partners in Haiti to address LF and soil transmitted helminths, like hookworm and other intestinal parasites.
Working in collaboration with the MSPP and MOE, IMA distributes the necessary medication in 46 communes throughout the country and provides technical assistance to maintain the program.
Through additional funding from the CDC, the MSPP and the University of Notre Dame were able to treat the heavily populated capital of Port–au-Prince.
Today IMA, the University of Notre Dame and the MSPP continue to distribute the necessary medication through mass drug administration, bringing this much needed protection to Haiti.IMA will treat about 4.3 million people annually through the program and has trained nearly 19,000 volunteers - building a cost-effective distribution and community owned network in country.
Achieving national coverage does not mean LF has been eliminated, since multiple doses of the medication are required to keep the disease at bay. In fact, IMA is currently conducting a spring mass drug administration in northern Haiti, with plans for more in the future. To be effective, treatment needs to continue for at least 5-7 years with good coverage to eliminate the disease.
IMA would like to congratulate the Ministries of Health and Education, the Haiti IMA team, donors, and our partners and volunteers for their hard work and dedication to achieving this important milestone.
USAID support for NTD control in Haiti is provided through a grant to IMA World Health as part of the NTD Control Program led by RTI International.
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