During a transmission assessment survey, Mwanaidi Mtui takes a blood sample from a boy in a public school in Vikuge, Tanzania. Photo by Paul Jeffrey

Treating neglected tropical diseases

This year, IMA World Health distributed medicines to 2.8 million people in Haiti and 20 million people in Tanzania to combat lymphatic filariasis, or LF. While treating so many people is a feat of coordination and partnership, the real cause for celebration is that fewer people are at risk than ever before for suffering the effects of Neglected Tropical Diseases.

After years of conducting mass drug treatment, IMA’s transmission assessment surveys show that LF is disappearing from the populations we serve. To date, 181 of the 197 districts IMA supports in Haiti and Tanzania are no longer endemic for the disease. The risk of becoming infected has drastically reduced in these areas, and treatment is no longer needed.

In other words, LF’s days are numbered.

LF is a mosquito-borne disease that affects the lymphatic system, causing painful and disfiguring swelling of the extremities and severe social stigma. Like other neglected tropical diseases, LF disproportionately affects people living in poverty. To eliminate it, at least 65 percent of the population must receive annual doses of medicine for five consecutive years.

IMA has conducted mass drug administration since 2007 in Haiti and 2011 in Tanzania through the ENVISION project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development. With leadership from RTI International, IMA trains networks of tens of thousands of volunteers in each country to distribute preventive drugs annually to as many people as possible through community distribution posts and schools. IMA focuses on four departments in Haiti, 20 regions across Tanzania and one province of the Democratic Republic of Congo—overcoming natural disasters, cholera outbreaks and political instability to ensure control and elimination goals stay on track.

With the elimination of lymphatic filariasis in view in Haiti and Tanzania, IMA is proud to work alongside some of the most dedicated partners in the global community to accomplish this ambitious but increasingly attainable goal.

181 out of 197

districts in Haiti and Tanzania no longer require treatment for LF

Vision-saving Surgery

This year, IMA World Health facilitated 1,115 surgeries for patients with trachomatous trichiasis, or TT, in Tanzania’s Mtwara Region. Trachoma is a neglected tropical disease and the leading cause of infectious blindness around the world. As trachoma progresses to trachomatous trichiasis, the eyelashes turn inward and scrape the surface of the eye. In such cases, surgery is required to relieve pain and prevent blindness.

With funding from the U.K.’s Department for International Development and leadership from Helen Keller International, IMA and our partners work closely with the Government of Tanzania to organize and promote surgery camps to reduce the backlog of people awaiting the vision-saving TT surgery in Tanzania. At the current rate, IMA anticipates clearing the backlog in fiscal year 2018.

IMA’s work supports the surgical portion of the SAFE program, which is based on World Health Organization’s four-part strategy against trachoma: Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvement.