Haiti: Lymphatic Filariasis
Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is a debilitating neglected tropical disease (NTD) characterized by excruciating pain and disfigurement. It is caused by the bite of infected mosquitoes and can have long-lasting effects on patients, not only in terms of physical suffering but also mental, social and financial repercussions. These impacts often lead to stigma and perpetuate a cycle of poverty.
As I flew into Cap-Haïtien, a sense of unease washed over me. Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, is a fragile state that has endured significant social and political crises, rampant gang violence, civil unrest, natural disasters and recent outbreaks of infectious diseases like cholera. Haiti is also one of only four countries in the Americas where LF still persists.
Stepping onto the tarmac, I was greeted with an unexpected surprise—a local band playing lively Haitian music. Instantly, a sense of calm washed over me, knowing that an incredible team was tirelessly working to implement a 10-day mass drug administration of a highly effective triple-drug therapy, a first for Haiti. What unfolded in the following days was a remarkable display of teamwork. The Haiti Neglected Tropical Disease Control Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), IMA World Health staff and the local community all joined forces. I traveled with community mobilizers and distribution teams from home to home, to schools and markets, ensuring that no resident was missed.
In total, 45,255 people were treated, including 17,920 children, reaching 74.4% of the population in the targeted commune of Limonade. The pilot activity demonstrated the scalability and effectiveness of this innovative approach, with the potential to positively impact over 2.4 million people. The successes of this project provide hope that other partners can implement effective health interventions, bringing vital services to a resilient population that has endured immense hardship.