On January 30th, in collaboration with regional and district health authorities and the Tanzanian NTD Control Program, IMA World Health is conducting a surgery camp in the Magu District of Mwanza Region to commemorate World Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Day.
Nearly one in six people worldwide suffer from neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). This group of diseases primarily impacts those living in poverty, who lack access to basic hygiene and sanitation, with women and children disproportionately affected.
Preventing, controlling and eliminating NTDs is critical, as they impact the achievement of most health and development indicators. NTDs reduce socioeconomic and educational attainment by inhibiting children from learning and developing to their full potential and preventing adults from working and supporting their families. NTDs also place a vast economic burden on communities due to productivity losses and strains on the health system. Furthermore, NTDs often lead to physical deformities along with disability, stigma, social isolation and shame.
IMA has been working to address NTDs for more than 20 years in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. IMA projects primarily target the five preventative chemotherapy NTDs: lymphatic filariasis (LF), onchocerciasis (known as River Blindness), trachoma, schistosomiasis (SCH) and soil-transmitted helminths (STH). IMA has also addressed visceral leishmaniasis (VL), commonly known as kala-azar, in endemic areas within South Sudan and, previously, in India.
In Tanzania, significant progress is being made in the fight against NTDs. As a recognized leader in the control and elimination of NTDs, IMA uses a combination of evidenced-based strategies to map and scale-up NTD control in partnership with the government of Tanzania. Currently, in close coordination with the Tanzanian NTD Control Program as well as regional and district NTD and eye care teams, IMA implements the SAFE project funded by Sightsavers.
The SAFE project aims to eliminate trachoma, the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness. The project provides surgery and antibiotics, as well as promotes facial cleanliness and environmental hygiene to address the underlying causes of trachoma. Through the SAFE project, IMA conducted door-to-door screening in Mtwara, Pwani, Rukwa, Kagera, Simiyu and Mwanza Regions and has screened over 750,000 households. The project also oversees outreach camps close to target villages to ensure accessibility of services for all patients in need. To date, program-trained trachomatous trichiasis (TT) surgeons have performed 12,065 trichiasis operations.
IMA prioritizes health system strengthening to promote sustainability and institutional capacity in its programming. Through the SAFE project, IMA provides on-the-job training to medical professionals and community case finders to increase the capacity of local health systems. Over the life of the project, 3,658 community case finders along with 57 screeners, 76 assistant surgeons and 23 surgeons have been trained by the project. These professionals will be working to support their districts in trachoma elimination efforts far beyond the project life.
IMA is committed to combating NTDs globally through continued partnerships with communities, local governments and development partners.
Lali Chania is IMA World Health’s Tanzania Country Director.