Dubai Cares, part of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, has joined a consortium of partners to undertake an AED 4,828,770 (USD 1,314,488) mass school-deworming program in Ethiopia. Along with the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI), Evidence Action, The END Fund, and other international donors, Dubai Cares will ensure 15.6 million children of school age are given treatment to eradicate intestinal worms and diseases such as Schistosomiasis (also known as snail fever), Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STH), River Blindness (Onchocerciasis), Lymphatic Filariasis (LF), and Trachoma. These conditions account for 90 per cent of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) burden in sub-Saharan Africa.
The deworming program is being implemented in conjunction with the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and is part of a larger, five-year master plan to treat more than 75 percent of at-risk school-age children in all nine regions in Ethiopia by 2020. During this five-year program, more than 100 million treatments will be administered, representing a major contribution to reducing the global burden of worms on children.
“The government of Ethiopia, as evident by the efforts of Ethiopia’s Minister of Health, has made the control of NTDs a national priority,” says Dubai Cares Chief Executive Officer, Tariq Al Gurg. “This represents a level of commitment rarely seen from governments and is to be applauded. The government has stated that school-aged children are particularly vulnerable and, with the support of Dubai Cares and our partners, the lives of millions of these young people across the country will be improved and, in many cases, saved. Parasitic intestinal worms contribute to poor health, poor nutritional outcomes and threaten children’s livelihoods. No community should suffer the consequences of preventable tropical diseases and we are extremely pleased to be able to contribute to their treatment.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 200,000 people die annually as a result of contracting Schistosomiasis, with a further 200 million suffering serious health consequences, and Ethiopia is one of the three highest Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) burden countries in sub-Saharan Africa, alongside Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“We are at a point where these diseases are no longer neglected, they are getting worldwide attention and action is being taken to tackle them. Our priority now should be to completely eliminate these diseases from existence,” concluded Al Gurg.
This is not the first time Dubai Cares supports a government-led initiative in Ethiopia. The UAE-based global philanthropic organization launched an integrated program of homegrown school feeding (HGSF), Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) interventions and deworming treatment program in the country in support of a wider Enhanced School Health Initiative (ESHI) pilot program which is being implemented by the World Food Program (WFP), the Partnership for Child Development (PCD) and SNV Netherlands, along with the Ethiopian Government, and the Ethiopian Public Health Research Institute (EPHI). As a result of the success of the deworming component of the program, the government of Ethiopia has allocated a yearly budget to replicate the program at national level to reach more children, with an 8 million Ethiopian Birr (USD 368,355) budget set for 2016. In addition, the research conducted by Dubai Cares’ partner, PCD, around the prevalence of worms has been used to inform an ongoing national government-led mass drug administration, an initiative Dubai Cares is supporting with the launch of this new deworming program.
“The lack of access to clean water, poor sanitation and sub-standard water supplies contribute to many health problems in certain parts of the world,” adds Mada Al Suwaidi, Senior Programs Officer, Dubai Cares. “But many of the diseases are easily treatable and this program will play a significant role in reducing mortality rates across a large geographical area, bringing relief to countless families throughout the country.”
Dubai Cares’ support to this program in Ethiopia is in line with the 2012 London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), which created a global alliance led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with 13 leading pharmaceutical companies, global health organizations, private foundations and donors, and governments pledging support to reduce the global burden of NTDs. Targeting 10 diseases, the global alliance has ramped up efforts over the past two years to reach the goals of the World Health Organization (WHO) - the United Nations public health arm - to control or eliminate these diseases by the end of this decade.