How to combat neglected tropical diseases

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Since 2019, the German government has supported a program to research and combat the neglected tropical disease-NTD in Africa. The journalists will report about exemplary projects and the first results of the new international program.

  • €15,090 Budget in Euros
  • 2020 Final release date
  • 5 Round winner
  • 2 Locations

How to combat neglected tropical diseases

More than 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer from neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) such as schistosomiasis, leprosy, dengue fever or elephantiasis. Around 40% of them live in Africa. The increased risk of infection is accompanied by poor health care, contaminated drinking water and malnutrition. The poorest of the poor are therefore particularly affected - especially in rural regions south of the Sahara.

The leitmotif of the United Nations' Agenda 2030 and its 17 goals for sustainable development is "leaving no one behind". But those suffering from NTDs are left behind in many ways. Their voices have little political weight because they live far from the urban elites. Because their symptoms are often more difficult to portray in the media than with Ebola, for example, their suffering remains largely invisible. In addition, they are often stigmatized and marginalized in their villages.

Those affected could be helped with medication, but first of all they often have no knowledge of their disease. Secondly, transport is difficult to organise due to a lack of suitable access roads. This means that even if the medication can be provided free of charge, it is difficult to reach the patients.

On an island in Lake Victoria, Tanzania, the project exemplifies how the fight against NTDs can succeed. In doing so, it is guided by the stations visited last year by a delegation from the German Bundestag. Over the last years, with support especially from the USA and Great Britain, the supply of clean drinking water has been secured, the infrastructure was expanded, self-help groups were founded and training courses on self-treatment were given. Another focus of the programme was on the inclusion of disabled people. The measures were successful: Until a few years ago, 99% of the islanders were infected with bilharzia, but today the disease has been largely eradicated.

In a second step, the project focusses on the Expanded Special Project for Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ESPEN), which is specifically tailored to the CEMAG region. Among others, the German Federal Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Science and Research and the KfW Bank are involved in this project. The project reports from Cameroon on the initial progress made and the challenges ahead. It accompanies German doctors on site, in particular Hermann Feldmaier from the Berlin Charité, who has been travelling Africa for many years as an expert for NTDs, as well as young scientists from the region whose education and research on NTDs is also supported by Germany.

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