Helen Keller International (HKI) a health Non Governmental Organization is preparing for a five day Lymphatic Filariasis treatment week in the Western Area of Sierra Leone starting from the 3rd to the 9th of June.
In an interview with officials from Helen Keller, Programme Manager Mustapha Sonnie said the disease which is also called Elephantiasis or Bigfoot is caused by worms that damage the cells leading to swelling and it is the second leading cause of disability worldwide.
He said they are now training the health workers and volunteers numbering 950 to administer the treatment which will last for five days.
He said it will be done on the same vein as the Polio campaign as the workers will be going from house to house and will be in strategic points to administer the treatment to people all over the city and beyond.
They will be distributing two types of tablets to people; Ivermectin that is a small white tablet will be distributed by heights of people between 1 to 4 tablets. Albendazole tablet is one dose per person regardless of their height.
Training of staff is ongoing now since last week and will get them prepared in time to start operations.
The Programme Manager said they have been administering the treatment annually in the provinces and this is the first time they are going to administer it in Western Area.
An intern working in the office Mohamed said they have been working with UNCHO over the years treating millions of people in the provinces and that is why HKI will start in the Western area.
He said the population in the West is around 1.2 million and they are targeting 65% of the population that will give them a success.
UNCHO did very well treating children for worms and it will continue by HKI in the provinces annually.
The target group for the treatment will be everybody in the West, but the shanty towns and the less privileged will be the main target groups as they are vulnerable to the disease because they open to more mosquito bites.
Elephantiasis according to HKI is caused by mosquito bites transmitted usually in childhood and also before age five. The progression to the disease is very slow between 10-20 years.
Mustapha Sonnie said it is a five year programme and this will be the first in Western Area adding that they are considering another large scale treatment in the next two to three years depending on the success they have this year.
The major sponsor of this programme is USAID from the American people and the drugs came freely from Merck & Co. Inc and GSK. The implementation partner is Helen Keller International and the Government of Sierra Leone too has helped in the sponsorship drive.