Together with our long-term partners HANDS, we are working in Jigawa State, Nigeria, to help treat and eliminate Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) such as Lymphatic Filariasis and River Blindness.
Lymphatic filariasis is caused by an infection from a parasitic worm spread by mosquitoes, which damages the immune system and can lead to the swelling and enlargement of body parts (elephantiasis), causing pain, severe disability and social stigma.
However, the severity of the condition and its progression can be reduced and even prevented with simple measures of hygiene, skin care, exercises and elevation of affected limbs, and surgery can alleviate severe symptoms.
Onchocerciasis (River Blindness) is caused by a different parasitic worm and spread by blackflies. It leads to severe itching, disfiguring skin conditions and visual impairment, including permanent blindness.
People living with NTDs regularly face discrimination and loss of their means of income, all of which can impact on their mental health. They are often unable to access services, such as water points, located in places that are not disability inclusive. As a result, most people with NTDs are dependent on family members for survival.
This innovative project is named CiSKuLA, inspired by the Hausa phrase ‘Cikkaken Shirin Kula da Lafiyar Al’umma’, meaning “inclusive and holistic” care. NTD projects often focus only on mass drug distribution for people at risk of infection to prevent disease transmission. In contrast, this project is ambitious in its scope, integrating with an existing mass drug distribution programme in the area and drawing in many other key elements of care. These include accessible water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) activities, as well as inclusive health care, mental health and livelihood support for people living with these blinding and debilitating diseases.
The CiSKuLA project will work in Birnin Kudu in Jigawa State. Over two years, the project will include:
- Preventative treatments and surgeries
- Teaching self-care and management of symptoms
- Training front line health workers and caregivers to recognise and provide psychosocial support (and referral to mental health services where needed)
- Inclusive WASH facilities, including setting up WASH clubs in local schools
- Self-help groups for those affected by NTDs
- Addressing stigma in local communities
- Inclusive livelihoods particularly accessible for women and men with disabilities
Main image: HANDS, CBM Global and Ministry of Health gather for the launch of the CiSKuLA project. Image credit: HANDSBack