International NGO Sightsavers and partners have taken one step closer to reaching the elimination of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) as they celebrate hitting an historic milestone - the delivery of their cumulative one billionth supported treatment to people affected by these painful and poverty-trapping infections.
The billionth treatment was administered today (Thursday 16th November) to a seven-year-old girl named Dorcas, who was at risk of NTDs in Kudaru, a community in Kaduna State, Nigeria. It was a combined treatment for onchocerciasis (river blindness) and lymphatic filariasis (LF) as part of one of Sightsavers flagship programmes, UNITED, which is funded by UK aid. She received this treatment alongside her grandfather, Simon, made blind from river blindness decades before.
NTDs are a group of painful and debilitating infections that affect more than one billion of the poorest people across the globe. They are most prevalent in developing countries and can cause severe and lifelong physical impairment, trapping individuals, families and whole communities in a cycle of poverty and social isolation.
Simon Bush, Director of NTDs, Sightsavers, said: “NTDs impact some of the world's poorest people but it doesn’t have to be this way. Our collaboration with communities, ministries of health in endemic countries, donors, other NGOs and academic institutions shows that these diseases can be prevented, treated and, ultimately, eliminated.”
But whilst significant progress is being made, there are still considerable challenges which need to be faced and work that needs to be done to fully eliminate NTDs for good.
“We need to continue to work in partnership to strengthen healthcare systems from the inside and ensure support is given to the people who need it - together, we want to tackle the problems at the root of NTDs, which are the sorts of things many of us take for granted, like access to clean water, sanitation facilities and education,” he added.
Sightsavers works with around 300 partners to support NTD programmes in 29 countries, treating five diseases: trachoma, river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, intestinal worms and schistosomiasis.
NTDs can be treated in several ways, through a combination of drugs, surgery and hygiene behavioural change programmes. In many cases these NTDs can be treated together through integrated treatment programmes.
The one billionth milestone celebrates the one billion drug treatments Sightsavers and partners have given to individuals and whole communities at risk of NTDs.
Sightsavers is an international organisation that works in more than 30 developing countries to prevent blindness, restore sight and advocate for social inclusion and equal rights for people with disabilities. www.sightsavers.org