Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) affect over one billion of the world’s poorest people and over 500,000 each year die of these diseases. Not every NTD is deadly, but the effects of these diseases are long lasting, cause significant disability, and keep people mired in a cycle of poverty.
Right now, funding to deploy essential medicines to prevent and treat NTDs in Africa has been frozen, and the deployment date is around the corner. Funding is needed to deliver these medicines to 11.8 million people living in Mali. Here’s how you can help.
What Are NTDs?
NTDs are very common among the world’s poorest. The END Fund, a nonprofit organization, is specifically tackling 7 NTDs in Africa that are both preventable and treatable. These NTDs can cause blindness, disfigurement, and have debilitating effects on both children and adults living in the world’s poorest countries.
A big problem affecting children specifically are intestinal worms.
“Kids get worms by running around barefoot, diving in dirty water, and going to the bathroom in places without proper sanitation,” says Ellen Agler, the CEO of END Fund.
Intestinal worms cause these children to become anemic, which then has other effects.
“Remember how tired you feel after you donate blood?” says Ellen. “These kids feel this all the time. Because of that, they can’t focus in class or even go to school. But just de-worming these children has shown to increase school attendance significantly.”
Lack of clean water and basic sanitation is the root cause of NTDs spreading so rampantly in these countries, including Mali. According to Ellen, over 90% of people in Mali live on less than $2 per day, and Mali ranks as one of the countries with the highest levels of absolute poverty in the world.
Mali is a large country in West Africa. Almost 12 million people of the country of 16 million are at risk of or have at least one NTD.
Since 2007, the Mali Ministry of Health and its network of community drug distributors have scaled up a national, integrated neglected tropical disease program to bring a package of treatments for the 7 NTDs called a Rapid Impact Package. It’s made up of medicines donated by pharmaceutical companies to treat and prevent these diseases.
Unfortunately, the political conflict and resulting suspension of funding from the U.S. government that was supporting the NTD program in Mali has put this program in a standstill.
“We are looking to provide bridge funding to ensure that the millions waiting for medicines still get their annual treatment,” Ellen says. “28,000 local community distributors are waiting to hand out the medicine and education materials if we can raise the funds to make this happen.”
What Can I Do to Help?
The END Fund is calling on the everyday person—like you—to step in and make a difference in the lives of these children and adults.
“We don’t want people to miss their dose this year,” Ellen says. “When the deadline passes, the distribution won’t happen again until next year.”
The END Fund has until the end of September to raise the final $100,000.
“Mali has been a success story, and the program is at risk right now,” says Ellen. “It’s of great concern and sadness for all the partners to see this happening. But we have a chance to save this program.”