Working to Prevent Neglected Tropical Diseases in Nigeria Through the COVID-19 Crisis

13 August 2021, Photo credit: END Fund/Adebayo Abayomi

This article is shared with permission from the END Fund. Latter-day Saint Charities works in collaboration with the END Fund to help eliminate neglected tropical diseases.

Each year, health workers in Nigeria distribute medicine for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in schools, in places of worship, and even door-to-door in villages. NTDs are a group of ancient parasitic and bacterial diseases that steal essential nutrients, impair growth, and cause disability, blindness, and even death. The Latter-day Saint Charities community has been supporting this effort for the past three years, recognizing that investing in NTD elimination is key to ensuring that children are healthy enough to go to school and adults are well enough to work and earn a living.

When the pandemic began, these efforts were put in jeopardy. Governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) had to start balancing the risk of stopping regular public health interventions with the risk of spreading COVID-19. On the one hand, continuing normally with programs would have accelerated the pandemic; on the other, if all interventions had stopped, the progress made against diseases like NTDs, HIV, and malaria would be eroded. In Nigeria, more than 160 million people require treatment for at least one NTD. Even missing one treatment cycled could wipe away progress that took years to achieve.1 The partnership between the END Fund and Latter-day Saint Charities became more important than ever.

Photo credit: END Fund/Adebayo Abayomi. Community health workers measuring an individuals in order to dispense the correct dose of NTD medicines.

In July 2020 the World Health Organization released guidelines for how organizations could safely restart their programs while minimizing risk to health workers and community members.2 Instead of gathering large numbers of people in one place to distribute medicine, health workers would go door-to-door with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing.

By September 2020 we were able to resume the distribution of vital NTD medication. We worked with Abedayo Abayomi, a Nigerian documentary photographer, to capture how health workers in the state of Osun, Nigeria, are adapting and to speak with community members about why this work is so important. The support of Latter-day Saint Charities was essential to our programs in Osun.

Photo credit: END Fund/Adebayo Abayomi. Local chief helping to demonstrate the process of NTD treatment to ensure community uptake.

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