About 4.5m Tanzanians in Dar es Salaam have received doses of two drugs donated by pharmaceutical companies. The donations were made in an effort to eliminate Elephantiasis caused by Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.
Ending LF Elephantiasis as a public health problem in the three nations would make them the first cluster of countries in Africa to achieve the breakthrough. This is following the announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) in January 2020 that Malawi had eliminated the disease as the second country in Africa, after Togo in 2017.
Elephantiasis, which is classified as a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD), causes swelling and disfigurement and has left thousands of East Africans permanently disabled.
After the WHO issued guidelines for the resumption of mass treatments of NTDs, Kenya treated 3.3m people for LF along its Coast, in December 2020. But then UK government aid cuts triggered by the costs of the pandemic saw most of the budget for elimination programmes removed.
However, gaps in funding have brought emergency funds, with the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation stepping in to finance Crown Agents to deliver treatments in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar.
In Tanzania, where LF was endemic in 120 districts, repeated rounds of drug administrations have seen it eliminate the disease as a public health problem in 112 districts. The Mass Drug Administration in Dar es Salaam in recent days is the first of two rounds now due in three of the city’s districts.
“The new CIFF funding for Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda has been essential in moving the dial on LF, from millions of people at risk to now very few. In this, the Dar es Salaam MDA is critical as a key measure in eliminating the disease in three of the last eight districts with LF in Tanzania. Thanks to CIFF, I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, bringing to fruition many years of LF elimination efforts,” said Deo Damas, Crown Agents’ Country Lead in Tanzania.