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Giving Compass' Take:
· Writing for The Rockefeller Foundation, Ellen Agler of The END Fund explains how recent advances in medicine have made it possible to treat neglected tropical diseases, but only when we can effectively deliver medicines to disease-ridden communities.
· How is The END Fund working to treated areas affected by NGTs? How can donors support these efforts?
Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) have plagued humans for thousands of years. Thanks in large part to the availability of drugs that were created in recent decades, we now have a chance to solve the NTD crisis, which affects over 1.5 billion people globally. For people at risk for the five major NTDs (schistosomiasis, blinding trachoma, elephantiasis, river blindness, and intestinal worms), these drugs offer a precious window of opportunity, inhibiting the parasites and bacteria from growing inside the human host and, in some cases, offering immediate relief from excruciating symptoms, for example, the intense non-stop itching that comes with one form of river blindness.
NTD treatments are mainly donated by the pharmaceutical companies that make them. These donations are as historic as the discovery of the drugs themselves. Some of the companies work together to integrate donations where a combination would be more helpful or effective, for example, Mectizan from Merck plus albendazole from GlaxoSmithKline treat river blindness, elephantiasis, and intestinal worms. Pharmaceutical companies donate over $4 billion dollars’ worth of drugs each year so that people who live in endemic regions can get out from under the burden of NTDs—diseases that severely harm a person’s ability to attend school, earn money, and participate in family and community activities.
Communities at-risk for NTDs typically are rural and hard to reach and the drugs must be taken on an annual or bi-annual basis, which complicates delivery and adherence to the necessary regimen. The answer to this challenge is, first, the communities themselves. Villagers choose a Community Drug Distributor (CDD), a type of community health worker who receives training in treating NTDs. The CDD obtains drugs from the closest dispensary, manages distribution from schools, local clinics and even door-to-door in their community, and keeps records of who has taken the drug. The CDD knows who is pregnant (and shouldn’t take the drug) or away on the day, the drug is given out—a date chosen by the community so it doesn’t interfere with major events such as harvest. CDDs also help educate the community on prevention of these diseases. This highly effective method of drug distribution, in which communities hold the ultimate responsibility, lies at the heart of the NTD movement.
Read the full article about neglected tropical diseases by Ellen Agler at The Rockefeller Foundation.