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The fight against NTDs: finding new cases fast

Early discovery of new cases is crucial to the elimination of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). FAIRMED's projects are no exception. Bankim project coordinator Ferdinand Mou explains the difficulties involved.

The key to success: Local populations are informed about the discovery and reporting of disease cases.

The process of eliminating NTDs is laborious – look at the latest yellow fever epidemic in the Congo, for example. Although mass vaccinations were carried out at the beginning of the 20th century to combat the disease, several countries have seen numerous outbreaks in recent months. According to the WHO, this is an indicator of a new flare-up of this insidious disease.

So what must we do to eliminate NTDs successfully? «I think that unless we invest in monitoring mechanisms with which to discover cases quickly and efficiently, we will not be able to eliminate NTDs», says Ferdinand Mou, coordinator of the FAIRMED Bankim project in Cameroon. It's only by quickly identifying new cases that the chain of infection can be broken early on and new epidemics prevented from flaring up. This also helps to pinpoint places with high numbers of cases.

Getting the community involved
Mou thinks that collecting data is the most important pillar in a monitoring system of this kind. However, herein lies the biggest problem as in many of the countries affected there are few resources for data collection on a local level.

«At FAIRMED we are trying to solve this problem by focussing on the local level. We involve the community in the monitoring system», he explains. This keeps the population informed about how and where they should report the discovery of new cases. And this has been successful: «Today, 90% of new NTD cases in the Bankim health district are reported by the community», says Mou.