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:
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, health areas and villages has been linked to the disease-specific data.
The first week of July 2017, two consultants of the LSHTM visited Cameroon on behalf of AIM to build the capacity of the team to complete the training modules. These modules were prepared in English and French that can now be used by other programs to guide the implementation of the mapping protocol; they can be accessed here.
Data collection of all states has taken place in Nigeria, and the final mapping will take place in September 2017, covering a total population of over 186 million people. In April 2017, AIM’s Program Director worked with the local team in Nigeria — consisting of staff from the NTD and Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer Control Programs as well as the Project Manager, the local GIS expert, and the representative of The Leprosy Mission Nigeria — on the revision of the data collection materials by suing data from three pilot states, which were earlier developed together with a consultant from the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) in Amsterdam.
The development of the Integrated Strategy for Case Management of NTDs, based on the results of the mapping, will take place in September immediately after the mapping training, jointly facilitated by the LSHTM and KIT.
Project implementation in Mozambique began in collaboration with the World Health Organization, who has developed an integrated surveillance system for leprosy, Buruli ulcer and yaws, and will be adding data on lymphatic filariasis. This is a significant breakthrough for the AIM Initiative as we seek to develop a system that aligns with the existing health information systems, and can be used to easily update maps as new surveillance data becomes available.
An innovative survey protocol has been developed in partnership with the Ministries of Health from Liberia and Ghana, effect:hope and the LSHTM. This protocol has been shared with WHO and will be revolutionary for the tools available for accurately estimating actual disease burden of NTDs, by testing the accuracy of the data.
The implementation of integrated interventions for the case management of NTDs in Liberia is resulting in the identification of new cases, including many cases of leprosy in children in previously non-reporting counties. Many of these cases are extremely advanced as treatment has been so hard to access until now.
The Ministry of Health continues to show strong leadership as they implement this new approach to the integration of NTD care within their health system.
A mapping planning meeting was held in July, attended by the AIM Program Director, to support the Ministry of Health in developing an integrated proposal for mapping leprosy, leishmaniasis and lymphatic filariasis. The project is expected to start implementation later this year.
The AIM Program Director, ALM Medical Director and a GIS Expert made a working visit to Mandalay in May, during which the data collected during the pilot was geo-referenced and mapped. A small group learned the basics of mapping. Data collection and geo-referencing for the rest of the country are currently ongoing, followed by a GIS training in September 2017 and the development of the integrated strategy later this year.
As the actual burden of disease comes to light in countries where this work is taking place, we are working closely with Ministries of Health, WHO Geneva and the Global Leprosy Program to ensure that there is capacity for response.
The level of enthusiasm and commitment that our international and national partners have shown has been encouraging and inspiring. Without our partners supporting this ambitious and transformative initiative, the incredible progress we have made in just 12 months would not have been possible.