Sightsavers Is Helping To Fight Tropical Diseases In Africa
Countdown is the name of a research project for the four African countries of Ghana, Cameroon, Liberia and Nigeria. The collaborating partner for the program in Nigeria is Sightsavers. They have partnered with the Federal Ministry of Health and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. The project was established to find a cost effective approach to control and eliminate seven of the tropical diseases most commonly neglected by the year 2020.
An analysis in Nigeria revealed better communication with the communities is required to administer the NTD medications on a mass scale. This would sustain the current gains while making new gains. Sightsavers has supported the program to provide experience and practical knowledge for the program managers, implementers and communities. This information will be used to find solutions and evaluate and implement all changes.
During the past year, Sightsavers has helped the research teams map gathering points and key landmarks from the perspectives of the community leaders, men and older and young women. The team has additionally run trials including handing out materials such as flipcharts and posters to the members of the sensitise community regarding the NTD programs. Feedback sessions have been run along with mock training cascades. This is where each group receives training on mass administration and trains the next group. Sightsavers and the program implementers are reflecting on ways to create and implement solutions for the project.
The defining principle of the project is participation. The researchers comprise a variety of disciplines along with stakeholders, children and women from the community. The methods used for research are participatory, defined and reliant on the participating individuals. Sightsavers has made certain the program will be carried out equitably instead of by only a few people. This has led to a better ownership of the decisions made during the course of the program. Information has been gathered and analyzed and changes made were based on experience and practical knowledge. This is referred to as a PAR or participatory action research cycle.
This approach will provide Nigeria with a plan to engage the community and help plan the NTD program. This will also strengthen the processes and skills of the implementers and planners. Any imbalance in power between the donors and program implementers is being addressed. This enables modifications to be made for the delivery of the program with the understanding and knowledge of the program implementers serving as the base.