Integrating Neglected Tropical Disease Control: Comparing the Experience in Rwanda and Burundi

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Burundi, Republic of , Rwanda , Topic: Intervention/Prevention

[Note: This case study was originally published in 2009. Download a PDF or read the case study here.]

The 13 parasitic and bacterial infections that are considered neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) afflict a billion people, take half a million lives each year and impose a health burden on the world that adds up to a staggering 56.6 million disability adjusted life years. Seven of these diseases are responsible for 90 percent of this devastation. Though each of these seven NTDs can be cured with the use of safe and generally inexpensive drugs, they continue to exact a grim toll on the poorest of the world’s poor. Left untreated, the infections compromise the ability of adults to work. They also stunt the physical and intellectual growth of children: Those chronically infected with hookworm grow up to earn 43 percent less than do their uninfected peers. And so the widespread persistence of NTDs perpetuates a cruel cycle of disease and poverty, hampering the economic advancement of many developing countries.

Lessons Learned:

  • Accurate epidemiologic information is critical. Verify conventional wisdom.
  • Empower the projects teams to make decisions and implement plans. Efficiencies in their work should be rewarded and give rise to opportunities to further health care initiatives.
  • Advocacy in support of Neglected Tropical Diseases control must be conducted at all levels of society — from the highest rungs of government to the bottom of the village hierarchy.
  • The objectives of a national health program and the national health strategy should be aligned.
  • Ministry of health ownership of NTD control is critical to its long-term viability.


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