GLIDE and Sightsavers partner to boost elimination of river blindness and other neglected diseases in Africa
Abu Dhabi & London, 18 November 2021:
Sightsavers and the Global Institute for Disease Elimination (GLIDE) have today announced a new multi-year partnership to help eliminate river blindness (onchocerciasis) and other neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in Africa.
River blindness is one of twenty neglected tropical diseases which affects more than a billion people around the world with devastating health, social and economic consequences. The disease is endemic across sub-Saharan Africa and is spread to people when they are bitten by infected blackflies.
Stopping blackflies in their tracks
Sightsavers and GLIDE will work together with Ministries of Health and in-country and external partners on a project testing innovative ways to trap blackflies, identify their breeding grounds and enhance laboratory analysis. Collecting and analysing blackfly data has historically been challenging because, until now, human fly-catchers have been the only reliable way to monitor for infected blackfly and the only method recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The work will include developing new collection and trapping tools for blackflies (such as bespoke glues) which will be implemented in two cross-border areas – Malawi-Mozambique and Ghana-Cote d’Ivoire. These areas pose a particular challenge in the fight against the disease because people and blackflies move freely across national and international borders, and data has shown that river blindness in these areas cannot be combatted with existing, outdated tools.
Using technology to fight NTDs
Sightsavers and GLIDE will also join other partners to roll out a new user-friendly platform – the Country Health Information Platform (CHIP) – to help countries quickly access important data. This includes district level mass drug administration data and the results of epidemiological surveys. CHIP integrates with the WHO’s portal for the Expanded Special Project for the Elimination of NTDs (ESPEN) to bring together data from several years in one place.
CHIP is currently being developed and piloted in Cameroon, DRC, Guinea, Kenya, and Malawi and will be available to all African countries who submit data to the ESPEN portal from December 2021.
Simon Bland, Chief Executive Officer of GLIDE, said, “Up-to-date and accurate data is vital for eliminating river blindness and other NTDs. Without good data, governments and partner organisations can’t direct efforts to where they’re most needed or be certain that people aren’t receiving unnecessary treatment. Innovation and collaboration is vital if we want to eliminate preventable diseases of poverty, and we are delighted to work with Sightsavers to pilot CHIP across river blindness-endemic countries.”
Caroline Harper, Chief Executive of Sightsavers, said, “River blindness is a devastating and entirely preventable disease which, like other neglected tropical diseases, causes individual suffering and damages educational, social and economic prospects for whole communities.
“River blindness can be eliminated and our partnership with GLIDE is tackling some of the biggest challenges in getting there: coordinating work across borders, shortages of high-quality data, laboratory facilities and skilled technicians in the countries where they’re most needed. With better collaboration between endemic countries and across the global health communities we can speed up progress and finally end the dreadful and avoidable burden of neglected tropical diseases.”
For more information, please contact:
E: GLIDE@gongcommunications.com / T: +44 7794 988752
Joanna Glyde, Senior Media Officer for NTDs
E: firstname.lastname@example.org/ T: +44 1444 275146