By: Kimberly Kamara, Director, Programs
Raising capital to support the control and elimination of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) is a big part of the END Fund’s ethos. Equally important to our organizational mission is the emphasis on educating individuals and organizations about these diseases and bringing new partners into the NTD sector.
One unique organization that has recently joined the NTD space as an END Fund implementing partner in Nigeria is the Amen Health Care and Empowerment Foundation (Amen Foundation). I have had the pleasure of working with Amen Foundation’s Founder and President, Rita Aizehi Aimiuwu Oguntoyinbo, as the organization launched and implemented the first mass drug administration (MDA) for schistosomiasis in the Gombe State of Nigeria, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and the State-level Ministry of Health (MoH). I am honored to work with Rita and delighted that she wanted to share her story.
By: Rita Aizehi Aimiuwu Oguntoyinbo, Founder & President, Amen Foundation
Growing up I often wondered how and when the world could overcome the numerous diseases plaguing mankind. Working with the World Health Organization (WHO) for 31 years gave me insight into the enormous task of reducing the burden of diseases, especially in developing countries.
Challenged by this, I decided to contribute to the reduction of morbidity and mortality by setting up Amen Health Care and Empowerment Foundation in 2004.
At the onset, our focus was on educating and encouraging people to access general medical care to reduce cases of sudden deaths from non-communicable diseases like hypertension and diabetes. I was also very concerned about blindness, which accounts for morbidity, loss of income, and exacerbates poverty.
I sometimes wondered how the various diseases – now referred to as NTDs – could be reduced to the barest minimum in the face of dwindling fortunes. There was no sign of Amen Foundation being able to assist in a solution to abate these diseases that are ravaging human beings.
However, help came from the END Fund, who agreed to support Amen Foundation to implement programs to prevent and treat NTDs in Gombe State with a partnership that began in November 2015.
It was a big sigh of relief to us at Amen Foundation, the Federal and State MoH, and the NTD Team in Gombe State, who were until this point referred to as “orphans.” With the support of the END Fund, we commenced the first treatment for school-age children for schistosomiasis in the state and treated 393,710 school-age children in all 11 Local Government Areas (LGAs) by May of this year. In October, MDA for the prevention of river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, and intestinal worms took place in all 11 LGAs. Treatment to prevent schistosomiasis also took place in the 5 highest endemic LGAs.
With this development, our joy knows no bounds because we now have the wherewithal to reduce this burden in the state and can contribute to ensuring that school-age children, and indeed all children, enjoy good health and uninterrupted attendance in school. We look forward to when a solution will be found to control all other diseases and hope that one day, the world will be free of disease. Until then, we are grateful that through this partnership with the END Fund, Amen Foundation’s work has been furthered with more individuals and communities reached. We hope that other organizations can find similar opportunities to get closer to seeing the end to diseases of neglect.