On March 6, 2018, World Lymphedema Day is celebrated to raise awareness about lymphedema, a complication of lymphatic filariasis. It is a swelling of the limbs caused by damage of the lymph system by filarial worms. Lymphedema, commonly known as elephantiasis, is painful and can be disfiguring. AIM supports countries to provide care for lymphedema as part of integrated interventions for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).
During a recent trip to Mozambique, our Program Director visited our project to develop an integrated surveillance system and mapping. AIM and its partners also attended integrated self-help groups in Cap del Gado. These groups are supported by a unique partnership between the Ministry of Health, Alemo (representing people affected by leprosy) and The Leprosy Mission Mozambique.
The self-help groups include people affected by leprosy and lymphatic filariasis, as well as people with vision problems and other disabilities. The volunteers supporting the groups refer many people affected by NTDs as part of active case finding. From the community level the cases are referred to the district level for confirmation of diagnosis. In the self-help groups, people affected by different NTDs learn to take care of their limbs to help prevent further damage and disabilities. In addition, group members learn how to farm more efficiently and how to use a savings scheme.
AIM is working within health systems in eight countries to map NTDs and improve equitable access to diagnosis, treatment and care. Its three-step process uses an innovative mapping method, integrated plans and highly focused interventions to ensure every person affected by NTDs like lymphatic filariasis and leprosy has access to the health services they need.