For thousands of years, parasitic worms have held back human progress. Disease caused by the most common of these infections — roundworm, hookworm, whipworm and schistosomiasis — have stymied human health, causing pain, stealing nutrients, and stunting physical and cognitive growth in children, preventing them from reaching their full potential. Worm infections have influenced the outcomes of wars, and they have stalled economic development. Not only do children with worms miss more school than their peers, but adults who grow up without access to treatment earn less money over the course of their lifetimes. And yet, intestinal worms are mind-blowingly easy to treat. Low-cost deworming pills, given once or twice a year, treat existing worms and protect against new infections. Still, 1.5 billion people in the world are at risk of infection — 600 million of them in Africa.
The END Fund imagines a world without disease caused by worms. Their Audacious vision is to help accelerate the movement already taking place across Africa to ensure that families, communities and economies can thrive in the absence of parasitic worm infections. By looking at the problem of delivering deworming treatment through a systems lens and bringing together all the right partners to make programs most effective, they will empower local stakeholders — from heads of households to heads of state — with a path toward owning effective, sustainable deworming programs. This project will amplify progress towards ending disease caused by parasitic worm infections and help ensure that all children are able to grow up free of worms.
The END Fund will leverage drug donation from key pharmaceutical companies and coordinate with governments and partners to deliver them — at an average cost of less than 25 cents per child per year. Over the next six years, they will bring deworming treatment to almost 100 million people at risk in strategic countries, reversing the devastating impact worms have on individuals and communities. At the same time, they will support innovative partnerships to increase access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene education to stop worm eggs from contaminating soil, water and food. They will leave no one behind in this effort, reaching at-risk demographics often overlooked in treatment, like young children and women of reproductive age. They will cultivate locally-sourced, long-term and sustainable investment in deworming programs by building new capacity with local stakeholders. All of this will be done in support of existing government programs, helping them reach full scale with a roadmap toward local ownership.
Since 2012, The END Fund has teamed up with dozens of partners around the world — from local and international organizations to governments — to deliver over 740 million treatments for neglected tropical diseases in 30 countries. In Rwanda, for example, there was no deworming program a little over ten years ago. With private sector investment and the END Fund’s ongoing support in building technical and operational capacity, treatment programs have now been embedded across the health system. Today, the rate of worm infections has dropped to nearly zero in areas and the government of Rwanda has committed to taking over full funding of its deworming program. This success highlights the END Fund’s unique role as an innovator and connector, able to support a variety of partners and programs to ensure sustainable impact. Through this role, the END Fund will boost the health of millions of individuals and support human prosperity for years to come.
Ellen Agler has worked for almost three decades to stop the suffering caused by the most prevalent neglected tropical diseases, which affect more than 1.5 billion people around the world. Ellen has worked for over twenty years in humanitarian aid and international development, and was previously a journalist. Her recent book, Under the Big Tree: Extraordinary Stories from the Movement to End Neglected Tropical Diseases (with a foreword by Bill Gates) was published in January 2019 by Johns Hopkins University Press.
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