USAID’s Act to End NTDs | West Program Launches: AIM Initiative Targets Resources with Disease and Morbidity Mapping

The AIM Initiative has launched activities as part of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Act to End NTDs | West Program. The program supports neglected tropical disease (NTD) elimination and control efforts in 11 countries, as well as activities aimed at mainstreaming NTD programs into national health systems. The AIM Initiative will be working with Ministries of Health in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal to map disease morbidity, promote cross-sector collaboration, provide data for decision making and assist with development of elimination dossiers. The AIM team will begin by conducting situation analyses in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire to determine the available data, and level of data security, for lymphatic filariasis and trachoma morbidity, and assess barriers and facilitators to sustaining and mainstreaming morbidity and disability services into the health system. Maps of lymphatic filariasis and trachoma morbidity will then be created to help ensure the morbidity management requirements … More »

Leading Global Health Organization Welcomes New Vice President

(Greenville, S.C., March 20, 2019) — The South Carolina-based organization working to cure and care for people with leprosy and related diseases is adding to its staff with the hiring of a vice president of special initiatives to oversee the AIM Initiative, a program of American Leprosy Missions. Joining the team is Stefanie Weiland who comes with twenty years of international experience in economic and community development, organizational management and health care delivery. “Stefanie brings extensive leadership experience in global health and development to our team,” says Bill Simmons, president and CEO. “She has a successful track record of scaling international programs and managing diverse teams. We look forward to having her drive the AIM Initiative disease mapping and management program as it grows to serve the millions of people affected by neglected tropical diseases.” Weiland joins American Leprosy Missions from LifeNet International where she served as executive director, managing … More »

Mozambique Implementing the Global Leprosy Strategy 2016-2020

Article reposted from the World Health Organization, Regional Office for South-East Asia, Global Leprosy Programme Dr Laura Gillini from the Global Leprosy Programme (GLP) in collaboration with the WHO Regional Office for Africa and the Country Office of Mozambique visited Mozambique between 14 and 21 February 2018. She was joined by Dr Emmy van der Grinten from the Accelerating Integrated Management (AIM) Initiative. They visited facilities in Maputo, health services in Cabo Delgado province and met dignitaries of Ministries of health and partners of the National leprosy programme led by Dr Francisco Guilengue under the supervision of the Director of Neglected Tropical diseases Dr Marilia Massangaie. While the findings of the visits also identified challenges, the GLP commended the country for having started the implementation of the Global Leprosy Strategy 2016‒2020 focusing on several key areas of interventions, namely: early detection through campaigns in high burden districts, improvement of … More »

AIM Celebrates World Lymphedema Day

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 … More »

Don’t be alone, don’t be afraid: Partnerships fostered between the NTD programme and communities in Liberia

By Karsor Kollie, Laura Dean, Anna Wickenden and Sally Theobald Ma Grace, Pa Abraham and Pastor Joseph stood strong to tell their testimonies of life with either lymphatic filariasis (big foot) or leprosy in Maryland County Liberia. Their inspiring journeys of overcoming challenges and being part of community life meant that they were important advocates for the NTD programme, bringing much-needed visibility and inclusion of people affected. Their key educational messages to their peers – others from Maryland with lymphoedema or leprosy, school children and community health volunteers and community health workers were: 1. Don’t be alone, don’t be afraid, speak to others 2. Visit the health centre 3. Take your drugs This was an exciting and historic event to celebrate World Leprosy Day, increase awareness of the integrated approach to morbidity management and launch the LF/Onchocerciasis MDA programme; and the first time that people affected by these diseases came … More »

The AIM Initiative’s Innovative Approach to Leprosy Elimination

For more than 60 years, on the last Sunday of January, thousands of people across the globe have celebrated World Leprosy Day and remembered those who suffer from leprosy. Every two minutes, someone around the world is diagnosed with leprosy, a neglected tropical disease (NTD). Leprosy is curable, but late diagnosis can lead to lifelong disabilities. Global annual leprosy statistics provided by the World Health Organization show that the number of new cases reported has stagnated at around 200,000 per year. The 2013 Bangkok Declaration, endorsed by 17 Ministries of Health and the World Health Organization, called for innovative approaches to reduce the incidence of leprosy globally. The AIM Initiative provides just such an innovative approach to leprosy elimination. 1. The AIM Initiative shows where the need is by mapping case data to the village level. The map presents a visual of the incidences of disability and disease. Never before … More »

Universal Health Coverage Includes People at the Last Mile

The day began just like the one before. A small team of national NTD program staff and AIM technical staff set out early in the morning to visit health facilities in Lofa County, one of the five counties AIM is supporting as part of the piloting of integrated treatment, diagnosis and rehabilitation of people affected by NTDs in Liberia. AIM was providing technical support to the national team as they conducted their routine supportive supervision to verify data of cases reported and examine the accuracy of diagnostic and treatment procedures. However, this day was different. It reminded us what our work is all about: people. We walked up to a man who was seated on a locally made bench in front of his house with his wife. His name was Morris. He welcomed us into his home and offered us seats. Once we were all seated, he pulled up one … More »

Training to Map NTDs Leads to Stronger Strategic Planning in Nigeria

In September 2017, the Federal Ministry of Health Nigeria, with support from AIM and its partners, The Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), conducted a joint geographic information system (GIS) training for approximately 27 staff from both the state and national levels in Nigeria. Participants included staff from the National Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Buruli ulcer (NTBL) and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) programs and in-country partners. The training provided basic skills to map collected data to display the distribution and prevalence of NTDs. The participants used data collected from a recent mapping exercise to develop maps for Buruli ulcer, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, and leprosy. This joint training was a continuation of the integration of case management NTDs (CM-NTDs) that began a few months ago, when selected members from both programs worked together to collect data from all states in Nigeria. After the GIS training, … More »

Collaboration is a Cost-Effective Way to Eliminate Barriers to Care

This past summer, the National Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) Program Manager in Liberia received an alert from Margibi county about 14 suspected cases of yaws and Buruli ulcer. However, due to the lack of rapid diagnostic tests, the cases could not be confirmed. So AIM consulted with the Ministry of Health in Liberia and the WHO Global Buruli Ulcer and Yaws Program. Together they identified two consultants from the West Africa region with experience in Buruli ulcer and yaws to conduct a one-week practical training to build capacity within Liberia to confirm and treat these cases. Collaborating with local consultants is not only cost-effective, but also allows for knowledge and information sharing among regional programs. The consultants conducted field visits with 11 people from six counties, including staff from Margibi county. The field visits included conducting rapid diagnostic tests for the initial suspected cases, ensuring the staff gained essential skills … More »

Read the AIM Initiative’s 2017 Progress Report: Breaking Barriers to NTD Care

NTDs contribute to a cycle of poverty and disease that can hinder economic and social development for generations. Many people affected by NTDs today lack access to case management services. Further, case management programs are fragmented, and the true burden of disease, and data about the availability of services, is inaccessible. The AIM team has been working with Ministries of Health and key partners in eight countries to fill critical gaps within health systems and more efficiently deliver services to those who need them most. Every step of the process — mapping, planning and implementing — is driven and owned by Ministries of Health, with AIM providing technical and financial assistance. Our work in the past year has included: Collaborating for success in Nigeria. With a population of 186 million, more the 100 million people are at risk from at least one NTD in Nigeria. AIM partnered with the government to … More »

Making Progress with Key Partners in our First Year

We are already beginning to see the immediate impact of the AIM Initiative on the commitment of governments to connect people living with NTDs to care. Increasingly, they are able to access data that they can use to increase focus and investment, target interventions, and interrupt the transmission of leprosy and other NTDs. Thanks to the support of our partners, especially our lead research partner the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), capacity is increasing for routine surveillance data mapping and updating of maps as new data become available, following the implementation of targeted interventions. Here is the latest progress in several countries where the AIM Initiative, our partners, and country teams are working together: Cameroon Mapping for leprosy, Buruli ulcer and yaws in Cameroon has been completed at district level, covering a population of over 23.4 million people. Geographic Information System (GIS) data for all health districts, … More »

Trip Report: Mapping Progress Made in Myanmar and Sri Lanka

In May of this year, our staff traveled to Myanmar and Sri Lanka to support neglected tropical disease (NTD) mapping efforts in the region. AIM Initiative Program Director Emmy van der Grinten, Technical Advisor Paul Saunderson, and Hope Simpson, a Geographic Information System (GIS) expert, visited Myanmar to attend a Ministry of Health Steering Committee Meeting and work with the team on reviewing and updating data from the Mandalay State. The Steering Committee Meeting showed Myanmar’s leadership in the project. The Director General, the Director of Disease Control, the Deputy Director of Administration and Finance, and the National Leprosy Coordinator all attended, discussing a variety of important targets and goals in Myanmar’s elimination of NTDs. While data collection was initially planned for six hyper-endemic regions, we were pleased to learn that mapping will extend to cover the entire country, ensuring a more complete data set. The initial data include leprosy, … More »

Renewed Energy and Resolve at NTD Summit 2017

We were pleased to attend the NTD Summit 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland, last month, marking the fifth anniversary of the London Declaration on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Dr. Edridah demonstrating how severe a worm infestation can be- 100 worms or more in someone’s abdomen #ntdsummit17 — AIM Initiative (@AIMNTDs) April 18, 2017 AIM Global Director Anna Wickenden and Program Director Emmy van der Grinten joined hundreds of organizations and individuals who are currently leading the fight against NTDs, including several of our partners from American Leprosy Missions, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation and effect:hope. It was especially wonderful to see Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador on leprosy and a partner of the AIM Initiative, receive a gold medal from Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO, for his great work in service of people affected by leprosy. Of the many inspiring presentations, we’d … More »

New Health Promotion Materials in Liberia

As part of the new, innovative Integrated Case Management of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) program in Liberia, the Ministry of Health is developing creative health promotion materials to help people recognize symptoms of NTDs and encourage them to seek early treatment. The Ministry of Health’s NTD Program and Health Promotion Team are working in partnership and have prioritised the input and feedback of the community in developing these materials. As a result of working in an integrated way across departments, the lessons learned from the recent Ebola outbreak around community engagement and mobilization have been shared and applied to ensure that the health messages are clear and relevant to the people who most need to respond to them. These new materials have been validated by the community and the Ministry of Health, and will now be rolled out nationally with support from the AIM Initiative, decreasing the mystery and stigma … More »

Keys to Success: Partner Collaboration and Buy-In

Earlier this month, AIM Initiative staff worked collaboratively with diverse partners in Mozambique to advance mapping efforts, which is the first step in our innovative approach to increase access to case management services for NTDs. Each country is at a different phase of identifying where NTD case management is greatest, with the goal of putting into place plans for targeting integrated health care services to those communities. “AIM’s approach to bring together – from the outset – country ministries of health, and on-the-ground and international non-governmental partners, is working very well,” said AIM Program Director Dr. Emmy van der Grinten. In particular, National Leprosy Program Coordinator Dr. Francisco Guilengue and Arie de Kruijff, country leader for The Leprosy Mission, co-chaired a meeting with a diverse team in Mozambique to discuss next steps. The team included representatives from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization, the National Bureau of Statistics, … More »

NTD Mapping in Nigeria

Last week, Sandra Alba from the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) in the Netherlands worked with officials from the Nigerian Ministry of Health to develop data collection tools for mapping NTDs. The goal is to map people affected by leprosy, Buruli ulcer, lymphatic filariasis and trachoma. For the first time, all these diseases will be on one map so health services can be more effectively and efficiently targeted to those most in need.

Connecting A Billion People to Care

The late Dr. Margaret Brand, a pioneering leprosy expert and eye surgeon, and a friend, once shared with me a story from when she took part in a India-wide health campaign to distribute vitamin A. She told me that one day, a young mother came into the outpatient clinic carrying a toddler and a six-month-old baby. The baby, who received sufficient vitamin A through breast-feeding, looked fine. But the toddler showed signs of extreme vitamin A deficiency.  The child’s eyes confirmed the diagnosis. Without vitamin A, the cornea of the eye dries out with no resistance against even mild infection. Ulceration follows, and within a day or two the whole cornea melts. If a child receives vitamin A during the dry stage, followed by a good diet with supplementary vitamin A, this condition generally can be stopped.  If not, the consequences are dire, including loss of sight and possibly of life. … More »