IMA World Health/Christopher Glass

U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Pamela White recently visited two IMA-related projects to see them in action at Charles Lebosse School, located in the North Department, distributed medicine and shoes to students as part of the Haiti Neglected Tropical Disease Program.

Ambassador White greeted students, faculty and local government representatives before joining in and distributing medication and new shoes to several students.

More than 4.8 million people in Haiti received preventive treatment for hookworm and lymphatic filariasis (common neglected tropical diseases) last year through local schools and community distribution posts.

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) — including soil-transmitted helminths (intestinal worms) and lymphatic filariasis (whose telltale symptoms include painfully swollen and disfigured legs) — persist exclusively in the most impoverished communities in developing countries due to inadequate sanitation, unsafe water and infected mosquitoes. In Haiti, it is not uncommon to meet children who are sick and struggling in school because intestinal worms are stealing their nutrition, or otherwise healthy adults whose swollen limbs make them unable to work.

Many see shoes as a first level of defense when it comes to good health. In addition to preventing cuts and injuries that can become infected, shoes can help prevent the spread of intestinal worms like hookworm — which affects an estimated 740 million people globally according to a World Health Organization estimate. Shoes that fit well are even better, as they help to prevent injuries as well as blisters that can easily become infected. And, very importantly, shoes are required for school enrollment.

The shoes were part of a distribution made possible through a partnership between IMA World Health and TOMS. Now in the third year of the partnership, hundreds of thousands of new pairs of shoes have been distributed across the country.

The Haiti NTD Control Program is funded in part by USAID through RTI International and implemented by IMA World Health and partners. The program is directed by the Haitian Ministry of Health and Population and the Ministry of Education.