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Combating neglected tropical diseases in Ghana

A program to reduce the prevalence of two parasitic tropical diseases

The Air Liquide Foundation is supporting Sightsavers, an NGO that is working with partners to eliminate avoidable blindness and promote equality of opportunity for disabled persons in developing countries. In 2016, a coalition of international development organizations, funders and governments which included Sightsavers and the Ghanaian Ministry of Health, launched a five-year program to reduce the prevalence of two neglected tropical diseases in Ghana – onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis.

Combating onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis

Neglected tropical diseases are a group of 17 bacterial and parasitic infections that frequently occur among low-income populations in developing regions. 12 million people are at risk of these diseases in Ghana. Sightsavers seeks to reduce the prevalence of these two diseases by 2020: onchocerciasis (or river blindness), which can cause severe irritation and irreversible blindness, and lymphatic filariasis (also known as elephantiasis), whose most striking symptom is a severe swelling of the skin and sub-cutaneous tissues. Lymphatic filariasis is caused by parasitic worms and river blindness is transmitted by the bite of infected black flies, which develop into worms.


Mass distribution of medication

The program is expected to protect 4.5 million Ghanaians from river blindness and 1 million from lymphatic filariasis. To achieve this, in 2017, it has:

  • established 500 community registers to organize the distribution of medication among 50 communities
  • raised awareness among the affected communities by putting up posters and distributing leaflets
  • trained more than 3,000 healthcare professionals and more than 7,500 community volunteers to distribute anti-parasitic medication
  • Supported the distribution of medication to over four million people for onchocerciasis and to over one million people for lymphatic filariasis
  • Carried out an impact assessment in 164 districts to determine areas for onchocerciasis treatment and one transmission assessment survey in 5 districts

How is the Air Liquide Foundation involved?

The Air Liquide Foundation supports the various measures instituted by this program. For example, it has financed 500 community registers for volunteer drug distributors to organize the distribution of medication, six motorbikes for community healthcare workers, as well as the training of medical and volunteer personnel. The Air Liquide Foundation’s grant also enables the project to evaluate the quality of the data collected under the five-year program.