By Wita Larasati, Senior Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist, and Molly Brady, NTD Senior Manager.
Staff from WCC Palembang, a local organization in Indonesia’s South Sumatra Province, are getting an early start. This morning they are meeting with village health volunteers and checking that everything is ready for a mass treatment campaign to prevent neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that will launch later in the day.
Striking at the heart of poor and marginalized communities, NTDs are a group of diseases that can have lasting and debilitating effects on people and their entire communities. Yet these diseases can be controlled or even eliminated through multiple rounds of treatment delivered through mass treatment campaigns.
The treatment campaign that WCC Palembang is working on will focus on preventing two NTDs: lymphatic filariasis (LF), also known as elephantiasis, and soil-transmitted helminths (STH), or intestinal worms transmitted through contaminated water or soil.
Later, back at a local health center, WCC staff sits with volunteers to review registration booklets and organize the distribution of drugs — free of charge — to all members of the local community. These drugs are donated by pharmaceutical companies and delivered with support from USAID’s flagship NTD project, ENVISION, which is implemented by RTI International.
A locally-rooted and flexible approach
Indonesia’s diverse population of almost 260 million people is spread across thousands of small islands, representing a unique public health challenge. To ensure mass treatment campaigns reach all people who are risk, ENVISION supports 10 local organizations like WCC Palembang to assist mass treatment campaigns and other NTD-fighting activities across the country.
“WCC is proud of the impact that our assistance to communities has had,” says Yeni Roslaini, ENVISION Project Manager with WCC Palembang. “In 2016, more people took part in the mass drug distributions than the previous year. We have seen people in our communities improve and enhance their health status.”
WCC and other organizations are embracing a flexible approach that is locally-rooted and driven.
Embedded within communities, they are able to understand the local context, culture, and language, and can quickly engage with local district health teams to mobilize communities. ENVISION enables local organizations to support government efforts to train drug distributors, conduct mass treatment campaigns, and monitor activities.
“Working with ENVISION, our staff not only gain ‘hard skills’ like increased knowledge, but also ‘soft skills’ such as responsibility,” says Roslaini.
Before conducting mass treatment campaigns, ENVISION staff work with district health officers and NGOs to develop a supervision schedule that prioritizes health centers with low coverage.
“ENVISION has provided our organization with the capacity to design, carry out and monitor successful programs,” says Yuyu Komariah, ENVISION Project Manager for B-Trust, an NGO established in 2001 to rebuild public trust in the government. “ENVISION staff always provide us with continuous assistance and suggestions. They coordinate with us on the program’s plan, ask for our suggestions and input into reporting documents, and provide solutions when we encounter challenges. This support provides us with greater motivation and lessons learnt on how to better manage our programs.”
ENVISION also provides training on how to properly implement programs with USAID funding in order to set organizations up to receive direct funding in the future.
Each organization’s specific expertise and role in their communities vary, but each have long history of experience in community development and/or health. For instance, WCC Palembang initially focused on women’s rights before expanding to public health in 2012.
Working with ENVISION has given local organizations like DKAP PMI, which is based in Sumatra, the opportunity to develop and expand their areas of expertise. “Our organization had primarily worked with HIV and TB programs prior to our work with ENVISION,” says Nofdianto, the organization’s Director. “Our work on NTDs in Indonesia has given DKAP PMI the opportunity to not only expand our technical work with infectious diseases, but has also given us the opportunity to expand our geographical work in the province of Riau.”
Local work leads to national impact
Since 2011, ENVISION has supported the mapping of 35% of the country for LF and treated more than 16 million people for LF and STH across 50 districts. By filling district-level treatment gaps, ENVISION is supporting Indonesia’s national NTD program to reach its goal of controlling and eliminating these diseases by 2020.
In 2017, Indonesia’s national LF elimination program plans to provide mass treatments in about 150 districts — aiming to reach 100% geographic coverage. ENVISION will support treatment campaigns in about 20% of these districts by ensuring district budget gaps are filled and standardized training and tools are available.
For more information on RTI’s work fighting neglected tropical diseases, please visit http://www.rti.org/impact/envision.
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