In early-April, representatives from the END Fund arrived at the Global Citizen office lugging a jar filled with 200 intestinal worms.
They came to educate Global Citizen staff about a collection of preventable illnesses known as Neglected Tropical Diseases — parasitic and bacterial infectious diseases that affect more than 1.5 billion of the world’s poorest people, including more than 800 million children. The END Fund has partnered with Global Citizen to help eradicate and treat these preventable illnesses.
During their presentation, the slender white worms — each the length and width of an elongated stringbean — wriggled in formaldehyde as staff members passed the jar to the person sitting next to them.
The troubling tub of parasites contains the approximate number of worms that can invade a child’s digestive system, swell distended bellies, and cause severe malnutrition.
While the intestinal worms serve as the most tangible source of NTDs, they are just one of five devastating illnesses that the END Fund works to eradicate around the world.
The others include River Blindness; Trachoma, another illness that causes of blindness; Lymphatic Filariasis, a mosquito-borne illness that causes elephantiasis; and Schistosomiasis, an illness that causes severe rashes and is contracted through contact with snails in water contaminated by human feces.
The issue of NTDs is not only a public health concern, it’s a women’s rights issue too. That’s because the illnesses disproportionately affect women and girls who are responsible for collecting water, cooking, cleaning, and caring for children.
For example, urogenital schistosomiasis affects women throughout Africa and is a consequence of the schistosomiasis infection. The illness is often misdiagnosed as a sexually transmitted illnesses and can lead to severe stigma. It can also cause pregnancy complications and an increased risk of HIV transmission.
Fortunately, schistosomiasis and other NTDs can be easily prevented. In fact, it costs an average of 50 cents per person to create and administer the vaccines that treat or prevent NTDs. And much of that cost is covered by major pharmaceutical companies.
Like our partner the END Fund, Global Citizen campaigns on eradicating NTDs worldwide. You can take action with us here.
While the public health community as worked hard to identify and prevent the illnesses, they haven’t always worked to understand and engage with the roughly 1.5 billion low-income people around the world who experience the illnesses, Uniting to Combat NTDs director Thoko Elphick-Poolay told Global Citizen staff.
“These diseases aren’t neglected — lots of scientists work on these diseases,” said. “But the people who suffer from these diseases [have been] neglected.”
That’s where the END Fund comes in.
The organization partners with and empowers local stakeholders by identifying gaps in existing program and leveraging private investment to fund community-centered projects.
“We highlight the work that the people are doing on the ground in places like Kenya, Burundi, Mali, Rwanda, and Nigeria,” said Heather Haines, the director of strategic partnerships. “And we let people tell their own stories.”