SCI Foundation is now Unlimit Health. Learn more about what the change means for our ongoing efforts to eliminate neglected tropical diseases
Last month, the new WHO guidelines on control and elimination of human schistosomiasis were launched. This guidance represents the first crucial step in reaching elimination of schistosomiasis by 2030 as outlined in the WHO NTD road map.
Credit: SCI Foundation/DRC
It is increasingly clear, based on the new guidance as well as recent modelling, that existing strategies of preventative chemotherapy targeting only school-aged children will not lead to the elimination of schistosomiasis. The new guidance represents a strategic shift from disease control strategies that require continuous rounds of preventative chemotherapy indefinitely into the future to multi-sectoral interventions that tackle the transmission of parasites. These new guidelines aim for a permanent removal of the burden posed by schistosomiasis on populations at risk.
Such a significant shift in approach will require considerable changes across the whole deworming sector, not just in terms of how programmes are designed and implemented, but also the way in which they are funded.
Organisations like ours, that work with ministries of health in endemic countries, will need to align our ways of working with this ambition. This means placing impact, cross-cutting approaches, and country ownership at the heart of everything we do. These paradigm shifts require a complete overhaul of the funding model for schistosomiasis and other NTD programmes.
As a community, we face significant funding challenges to reaching the global targets, requiring new and innovative funding models:
During a deworming pre-campaign, Dr Tahina answers some questions asked by health workers while the midwife shares the registers and equipment needed for the deworming campaign. Anjepy, district of Antananarivo, Madagascar. Credit: SCI Foundation/Viviane Rakotoarivony
The launch of the new guidance in the year that the SCI Foundation celebrates its 20th anniversary strengthens our commitment to build on the foundations we have helped lay towards elimination of this preventable disease. This year, we will roll out our new strategy and operational model with a particular focus on innovative financing models for comprehensive, cross-sectoral disease elimination efforts, working to embed deworming within sustainable routine healthcare service delivery.
To respond to the changes required to achieve elimination and to threats of reduced funding, we must strengthen our resolve to champion in-country ownership of deworming programmes, and of NTD programmes more broadly. This requires:
These may seem like general and simple statements of intent, but in practice, they mean creating a new normal among organisations within our disease community in which we hold ourselves accountable to elimination and purposefully ‘work ourselves out of a job’, avoiding dependency and putting the sustainability of country efforts ahead of our own.
As elimination comes within sight for several countries after decades of investment, this ambition is endangered by decisions made by those who are removed from their impact. A change in the rules of the game is needed now to keep elimination within reach, and to place decision making power back where it belongs.
Dr Wendy Harrison
By Dr Wendy Harrison, CEO, SCI Foundation