Did you know?
Lymphatic Filariasis (which leads to elephantiasis or swelling of the extremities caused by damage to the body’s lymphatic system) is one of the world’s leading causes of disfigurement and disability. The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis estimates that 1.3 billion people around the globe are at risk of LF infection, and more than 120 million are infected. Countries where LF is found are mostly in the tropical and sub-tropical regions, which are among the world’s poorest. It is also one of the neglected tropical diseases targeted by the World Health Organization for control and elimination in new integration initiatives launched in the past several years.
Since 1994, IMA has been active in addressing neglected tropical diseases through treatment, advocacy and education. For more than a decade, IMA has worked with governments and other organizations in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean to battle this scourge, not just with preventive chemotherapy, but for those already suffering, with programs to reduce swelling and the fevers that accompany LF.
In the village of Afagnan in southern Togo, a woman in her fifties had suffered for 15 years with painful swelling in her legs caused by LF. This swelling can often make it impossible to work or lead a normal life. The woman visited a facility where she was incorrectly told she would need an amputation. Amputation is never an option in cases of LF and can be fatal. Desperate, she entered a program run by the Togolese Ministry of Health with help from IMA. After learning proper treatment techniques to wash, exercise, and elevate her leg, she is greatly improved with only minimal swelling.
The LF program, which is funded by USAID through the World Bank, relies on volunteers and medical personnel who identify people suffering from the disease and train them on how to manage symptoms. There were nearly 1,000 cases actively monitored in the program in Togo in 2009.
IMA is also working in India’s Orissa State to fight the debilitating effects of LF. IMA works with its partner, CASA (the Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action), to use community volunteers to train patients and their family members in managing the symptoms of LF. To date, 775 volunteers have been trained and are managing 15,478 patients in 842 villages. People once shut off from neighbors, suffering greatly and unable to work, can once again become contributing members of their communities.
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