One of the world’s oldest non profit organizations devoted to fighting and treating preventable blindness and malnutrition, Helen Keller International has launched the control of neglected tropical disease, NTDs Programme in Sierra Leone at the Kingtom Bank Complex in Freetown.
The Helen Keller International is currently working with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, WHO, NOCP, RTI and other NGOs in the health sector with funds provided by the USAID for an integrated approach to combat neglected tropical disease in Sierra Leone for a period of three years.
Speaking at a stakeholders meeting yesterday, the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Arthur Williams who also chaired the launching programme said that, there is rapid increase of diseases in the country that have been neglected by the health sector due to the lack of funds and expertise to handle it by government and some non governmental organizations.
The Director of Trachoma and Training for Helen Keller International USA Chad MacArthur outlined their mission statement which includes support to mass and routine micronutrient supplementation effort , training of Ministry of Health staff and NGOs monitoring and evaluation of nutritional programs and guidelines for infant and child feeding and also reduce anemia in pregnant women.
He added that HKI also plays an important role in onchocerciasis (river blindness) control and focuses on reinforcing information, education and communication strategies with surveillance systems and community directed treatment with Ivermectin CDTI programs.
He noted that they will provide expertise, training and technical assistance to establish nutrition and eye health programs in partnership with host countries and indigenous organizations to combat malnutrition, cataract, trachoma, onchocerciasis and refractive error, which the founder championed as a blind person.
A Senior Specialist for Neglected Tropical Disease Control Program and RTI Dieudonne P. Sankara intimated that most of the neglected diseases are found in developing and poor countries and it is in that vein that his organization is helping needy people in countries where good governance is operational. The official noted that thirty (30) diseases are considered neglected and 70% of those affected are low income generating people and they are neglected because of poverty.
He added that they will be working with other partners in the implementation of this programme, so that they can use an integrated approach to combat neglected tropical disease in Sierra Leone.
The WHO officer in charge in Sierra Leone, Dr Akpaka Kalu also promised to work with government and line ministries to combat some of the neglected tropical diseases.
The Programme Specialist at the American Embassy, USAID programme, Boi Jeneh Jalloh reiterated their commitment and support to combat neglected diseases in the country.
Dr. J D Koroma, Programme Manager of NOCP highlighted the major diseases they will be focusing during the 3 year period, which includes training and treatment in lymphatic filariasis, guinea worm, schistomiasis, human African trypanosomiasis and trachoma. He noted that river blindness has increased in the country with 66% prevelance rate while only Moyamba District in the country has reported guinea worm, with only two cases, but there is need for improvement in the fight against neglected diseases.
The stake holders launching programme attracted government officials, NGOs and medical doctors practicing all over the country, to enable them get first hand information about combating and treating neglected tropical disease in Sierra Leone.