Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) strike hundreds of millions of people in Africa, causing blindness, permanent disfigurement, and possibly ostracism from the community and life-long poverty. These diseases are a huge problem that requires an integrated, cost-efficient and sustainable solution.
The first line of defense against NTDs is disease prevention via mass drug administration (MDA). The Program to End Neglected Tropical Diseases in Africa (END in Africa) has distributed more than 72 million drug treatments to almost 34 million people in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger, Sierra Leone and Togo in just the past 18 months. The program is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and administered by a team of partners led by FHI 360, which provides overall program and financial management as the prime partner.
A drug treatment program on such a scale wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago, when national prevention efforts were fragmented and lacked central coordination. It is possible now — thanks to integration efforts and public–private partnerships between national NTD programs, USAID and other funders, pharmaceutical companies and international NTD control program administrators, such as END in Africa. Together, these integration mechanisms have cut per-person MDA costs by more than 50 percent, from 27 cents to just 12 cents!
As the program administrator for END in Africa, FHI 360 has a leading role in fostering NTD integration and managing these partnerships. We oversee coordination of drug supply and delivery for MDA and supervise the program subgrantees charged with MDA implementation in each country. FHI 360 also helps monitor and evaluate the program’s impact and financial management processes, as well as knowledge generated from the program used to inform ongoing disease control efforts.
Today, FHI 360 joins USAID and more than 40 other nongovernmental organizations, academic institutions, global health and civil society organizations at an event on Capitol Hill to hail historic progress, celebrate champions, and underscore continuing challenges in the global fight against diseases affecting the world’s poorest and most marginal populations.
Even as we celebrate our successes in the global fight against NTDs — on Capitol Hill on September 19 — we know there is still much work to be done. Worldwide, hundreds of millions more people need preventive measures against NTDs. Achieving this goal will take more funding, more drug donations and better coordination among drug donors, government agencies and national NTD control programs.
Countries need strong supply-chain systems and financial management capacity to effectively scale up and integrate their NTD control programs. FHI 360’s END in Africa program is helping them on both counts. In June 2012, the program piloted an innovative financial and project management capacity-building exercise to support Ghana’s national NTD control program. Using a program management tool called the maturity matrix, the exercise helps countries pinpoint and resolve financial management bottlenecks in their national programs.