People, not statistics- Meet the heroes working to end NTDs in Northern Haiti

RTI | Int'l Dev
Sep 14, 2017 · 5 min read
School children line up to be tested for lymphatic filariasis (LF). Photo Credit: RTI International/Timothy La Rose.

In northern Haiti, teams of health workers from the Ministry of Health and Population, supported by the RTI-led USAID flagship neglected tropical disease project, ENVISION, test school-aged children for lymphatic filariasis (LF) to determine the level of progress being made towards eliminating this debilitating disease.

In school after school, children line up to collect lollipops and have their fingers pricked. The results take ten minutes to appear on small field test strips. Confirming that transmission has been interrupted takes at least three rounds of testing over about five years. If these health districts are successful with this test, there will be only one assessment left until they can declare elimination of LF as a public health problem.

Communities are at the forefront of the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Involving specialists in the response is one of the main reasons for its success. We sat down with community mobilizers and health workers to learn about their experiences working to ensure that the children of Haiti grow up in a country free of NTDs.

Oremis Jephte, Director of College Martin Luther, Fort Liberte, Haiti. Photo Credit: RTI International/Timothy La Rose.
It’s 11am. A break in classes and time to begin the Transmission Assessment Survey. School director Oremis Jephte rings the bell to alert teachers and students. Photo Credit: RTI International/Timothy La Rose.

Oremis Jephte, Director, College Martin Luther, Fort Liberte, Haiti

“Health is a big problem in my community. Many children are absent because of sickness. Even this morning, there are a lot of children out. If we can eliminate lymphatic filariasis, we will have one less serious disease to worry about. Education is a big part of elimination. As a teacher and director, I provide advice to the children. Education is vital to health. As the old proverb goes, “prevention is better than treatment.’”

Mr. Jephte was supported by the USAID-funded ENVISION project team to successfully conduct a Transmission Assessment Survey (TAS) for lymphatic filariasis, also known as elephantiasis, of six to seven year olds in his school. All tested negative. A great sign post on the road to elimination.

Madame Yolanda records information and checks the results of the TAS. Photo Credit: RTI International/Timothy La Rose.

Jeancilien Yolanda, Nurse

“I know people who have lymphedema and hydrocele. I treated them when I was studying to be a nurse. They weren’t born with these conditions, which should tell everyone that they are preventable. LF is a very grave disease. I’ve seen it firsthand. I’m proud to be in the fight against it. I am very happy today because all of the tests were negative.”

Madame Yolanda works for the Ministry of Health and Population as a nurse. During the survey, she was responsible for testing all of the blood samples with field test strips.

Antoine Anastasia, Community Leader in northern Haiti. Photo Credit: RTI International/Timothy La Rose.

Antoine Anastasia, Community Leader in Northern Haiti

“I am very happy. The work has been beautifully done. The drugs as well as the messages to the community have been proven to be effective. There used to be resistance to our work, but one day several women who were pregnant during the last mass drug administration (MDA) came to the team and asked for the drugs. They weren’t able to take them until after their delivery. They obviously knew it was important for their health.

I cannot thank the world enough for their support! The messages have spread throughout Haiti and now we are seeing the results — lots and lots of negative tests.”

Madame Anastasia has been working with her communities since 2010. She helps to educate the people about LF and reduce any resistance. She uses radio and tv spots, works with religious leaders and traditional healers, and speaks directly to the people to get the messages out.

Jean Jacques surrounded by the children he is testing for LF. All tests were negative thanks to his work and that of the team. Photo Credit: RTI International/Timothy La Rose.

Jean Jacques Dieuniva, Lab Technician

“LF is a serious problem in Haiti. But it’s looking more and more like we can stop treatment in certain districts. It means a lot to me personally as part of the team. It’s a big relief.

In the near future, we will eliminate LF. It used to be endemic and we are on the path towards elimination.”

Mr. Dieuniva is a Lab Technician and has been working all over Haiti for the last 11 years.

Dagrin Stachis organizes the transmission assessment in a small school in northern Haiti. Photo Credit: RTI International/Timothy La Rose.

Dagrin Stachis, Nurse

“As a nurse, I used to help people with hydrocele, an enlarging of the scrotum due to the effects of lymphatic filariasis, and with lymphedema, a swelling of the extremities caused by lymphatic filariasis also known as elephantiasis. I know how bad it can be. But today we are seeing the results of our work. Prevention! Together with the Ministry of (Public) Health and other partners, we have a team out there educating the public; we are treating and testing the children. With these results we see that LF can be defeated and that the process works!”

Madame Stachis works in a health center between Port-au-Prince and Leogane.

Contributions from Abdel Direny and Timothy La Rose.

ENVISION is an eight-year project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) aimed at providing assistance to national NTD control programs for the control and elimination of seven targeted NTDs: lymphatic filariasis, trachoma, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, and three soil-transmitted helminths (roundworm, hookworm, whipworm). The USAID-funded ENVISION project, led by RTI International, works through partner IMA World Health to support the Haitian Ministry of Health and Population to eliminate lymphatic filariasis and to control soil-transmitted helminthes. ENVISION contributes to the global goal of reducing the burden of targeted NTDs so that they are no longer a public health problem.

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RTI | Int'l Dev

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RTI's #globaldev team applies science and knowledge to improve lives in developing countries around the world. An official @RTI_INTL feed.

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