Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) are diseases which are largely overlooked by researchers. In the countries of Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia, and Nigeria the “COUNTDOWN” project is devoted to preventing and developing treatments for the seven most common NTDs. COUNTDOWN refers to the project’s objective of bringing NTDs under control by 2020.
The groups working on Nigeria’s COUNTDOWN project include the Federal Ministry of Health, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and Sightsavers an organization devoted to saving sight, fighting disease, and advocating for the rights of the disabled.
The project’s research team is headed by a manager/officer. The expertise of the researchers is varied and includes Health Economists and Social Scientists. An essential component of the research team is community leaders and citizens of the area in which the research is being conducted.
Care is taken to solicit the input of groups who despite being affected by NTDs are normally ignored by researchers. This type of research is called Participatory Action Research (PAR). The input of indigenous peoples is vital in the development and implementation of preventative measures and treatments.
Utilizing the PAR method facilitates the establishment of Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). According to Sightsavers the objectives of SDGs is to promote universal prosperity through ecology and poverty eradication programs.
Communication is the key element of PAR. The exchange of scientific and personal knowledge makes it possible to alter established programs as the need arises. Participatory Action Research ensures that those who implement the programs and those who finance them have equal say in the development of programs.
In the next 36 months, Sightsavers hopes to restore the eyesight of one million people through its “Million Miracles” initiative. Half the people of Malawi are blind because of cataracts. Bilateral cataracts claimed Winesi March’s vision.
According to a Sightsavers Ophthalmic Clinical Officer Dr. Madalisto Nyangulu Sightsavers efforts are essential to reversing that sad statistic. Many Malawians live in areas so remote they can only be reached on foot. Those who need eye care will not seek it out on their own, so Dr. Nyangulu must go to the patients.
Winesi March was once a productive man devoted to providing for his family. Cataracts took his sight and sense of self-worth. Winesi likened the inability to provide for his family to a living death. In October, through Sightsaver’s Million Miracles Winesi will get his sight and self-esteem restored.