The World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors approved an U.S.$121 million credit and grant to support the Sahel Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases Project, which aims to increase access to community-level health services to prevent and treat cases of malaria and neglected tropical diseases. The project will be implemented in three countries in the Sahel region – Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger – and will benefit an estimated 3.7 million people.
Africa’s Sahel region is home to more than 80 million people, and a large proportion of the population lives more than five kilometers from a health center. Although illness from the major neglected tropical diseases can be found across Sub-Saharan Africa, the burden is heavily concentrated in the Sahel, and four of the most debilitating tropical diseases are strongly associated with the climatic environment of the Sahel. An estimated 88 percent of trachoma cases in Africa are in the Sahel, as are 59 percent of lymphatic filariasis cases, 50 percent of schistosomiasis cases, and 49 percent of onchocerciasis cases.
Countries in the Sahel also bear a disproportionate burden of malaria which is the primary cause of death in young children and primary reason for outpatient visits to health centers and hospitalization. “The control and elimination of malaria and neglected tropical diseases is a regional public good as these diseases don’t respect national boundaries,” says Colin Bruce, World Bank Director of Regional Integration for the Africa Region. “By supporting regional collective actions, this project will enhance disease control strategies to eliminate and reduce the spread of malaria and neglected tropical disease along international borders in endemic areas, helping to boost livelihoods for the millions of families in Africa’s Sahel region.”
The Sahel Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases Project will focus on scaling up disease control interventions at the community level in cross-border areas in the three countries. Other countries may join during project implementation. For malaria this includes community-based diagnosis and treatment and seasonal malaria chemoprevention for young children. For NTDs this includes integrated treatment of five preventable NTD through mass drug administration one to two time per year, and treatment of the reversible consequences of NTDs (trichiasis and hydrocele) in mobile surgical camps staffed by doctors and nurses from all three countries. .
The project will support countries’ efforts to harmonize policies and procedures, and countries will be empowered to engage in joint planning, implementation and evaluation of program activities across borders at regional, national and district levels. By considering activities that can only be achieved through multi-country collaboration, priority will be placed on controlling and preventing cross-border spread of communicable disease; targeted research and development; and standardized data collection efforts. Activities to boost collaboration among countries include promoting resource sharing and pooled procurement of difficult to access commodities. Other actions will aim to strengthen institutional capacity to coordinate and monitor implementation.