Parasitic worms are a major public health threat, affecting nearly a quarter of the world’s population. Disease caused by the most common of these infections — roundworm, hookworm, whipworm and schistosomiasis — have stymied human health for thousands of years, 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. While existing deworming programs have successfully reduced the suffering caused by parasitic worms for millions, nearly half of Africa’s population remains at risk of infection. In Ethiopia alone, more than 20 million children remain at risk.
The END Fund imagines a world without disease caused by worms. Their Audacious vision is to help accelerate the movement already taking place in 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 everyone can live free of worms.
With initial funding raised through the Audacious Project, The END Fund is launching the Deworming Innovation Fund to accelerate progress towards ending parasitic worm infections that affect more than 40 million children in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. Over the next six years, The END Fund will leverage drug donations from key pharmaceutical companies and coordinate with governments and partners to deliver them. They will invest in tools to better target and measure programs, so they can deliver treatment to the communities that need it the most. At the same time, they will support proven approaches to hygiene education and increase community engagement. 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. 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’s Bio: Ellen Agler has worked since 2012 to stop the suffering caused by the most prevalent neglected tropical diseases, which affect more than 1.7 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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