LIBERIA AFTER EBOLA TACKLING PARASITIC DISEASES Since Liberia was declared Ebola-free in January 2016, Imperial’s Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) has been working with the country’s Ministry of Health to restart its national schistosomiasis treatment programme. SCI Programme Manager Lazenya Weekes (kneeling, front left) with Catherine Thomas (red t-shirt), the Liberia National Schistosomiasis coordinator, and teachers at a training session in Nimba County.
by taking them at a public meeting that parents agreed for their children to be treated.” Despite the challenges, the SCI has supported the Liberian government to treat more than 334,000 children in areas with high levels of schistosomiasis. “The team is so grateful to the Ministry of Health in Liberia for their dedication and collaboration,” says Lazenya. “We are inspired also by the generosity of our donors. Your support enables us to bring treatment to those who need it most.”
During the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, all non-emergency health services in Liberia were put on hold, including schistosomiasis treatment. With the epidemic now over, the SCI is providing technical and financial support to enable the government to relaunch its national treatment programme, and has already supported the treatment of hundreds of thousands of children across Liberia for schistosomiasis and other parasitic diseases. “Restarting the programme presents considerable challenges,” says Lazenya Weekes, SCI Programme Manager for Liberia. “Liberia is one of the world’s poorest countries, with a fragile health system that is still recovering from a 14-year civil war. Ebola hit the country hard, with over 4,500 people dying, including many health workers.”
ANNUAL FUNDRAISING REPORT 2015–16
334,000 children treated in areas with high levels of schistosomiasis.
Thanks to the generosity of an international community of donors, the SCI has been able to work with the government to train over 5,200 community drug distributors and local teachers, to deliver a week-long mass drug administration campaign. Working in communities that are rebuilding their lives after losing family members to Ebola requires sensitivity, particularly when public confidence in the health system has been damaged. Rebuilding trust is a priority. “In one town where lots of people had died from Ebola, parents were distrustful of drugs, and refused to have their children treated,” says Lazenya. “It was only when a government worker who spoke the local language demonstrated the safety of the drugs
WHAT IS SCHISTOSOMIASIS? Schistosomiasis is a parasitic tropical disease that affects an estimated 258 million people. It causes chronic ill-health and malnourishment and, left untreated, can cause death. With funding from the UK government and drugs donated by Merck, SCI provides the technical assistance and training required to deliver treatment to over 30 million people every year across Africa and in Yemen.
Imperial College London Annual Fundraising Report 2015–16: The impact of giving