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  • Rukoh Kanu shows how lymphatic filariasis has enlarged her leg.
  • Group joins to learn more about the impact of the disease.
  • Rukoh Kanum manages household chores with relief from medication.
  • Yeabu Fornah has lived with the disease for over a decade.
  • Kadiatou Sankoh's symptoms developed more recently.
  • In men, it can cause swelling of the scrotum, called hydrocele.
  • Aiah Sam is the focal point for the district and a key partner of Helen Keller, helping to put an end to the transmission of lymphatic filariasis.
  • Sulaiman Tarawalie is one of 30,000 Helen Keller trained health workers in Sierra Leone.
  • We have successfully ended transmission of lymphatic filariasis in 15 of the country’s 16 health districts, freeing millions from this debilitating disease.
  • Further, Sierra Leone has just launched a sustainability plan for the control of neglected tropical diseases.

Once upon a time lymphatic filariasis plagued the entire country of Sierra Leone. The parasitic-born neglected tropical disease transmitted through mosquitos, causes severe swelling and painful enlargements of body parts. And while preventable and treatable, once it reaches the stage of elephantiasis, cannot be reversed. In addition to destroying people’s quality of life and ability to earn a living, the disease also creates social stigma. The extreme swelling of legs is called “bigfut” in Sierra Leone’s Krio language.

Fast forward to today, and villages across the country are reclaiming their future. More than 30,000 community healthcare workers across Sierra Leone have worked tirelessly to distribute medication and education about the “bigfut,” ease its pain, and stop its transmission.

This progress is made possible with the generous support of FHI 360 through USAID’s Act to End Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) | West Program, The END Fund, Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation, and our generous community of donors.

We were privileged to have New York Times journalist Nick Kristof join Helen Keller Chief Program Officer Shawn Baker and Communications Officer Alpha Sesay on this visit, who recently featured Helen Keller’s path to eliminating lymphatic filariasis in Sierra Leone in his column.

Photo credits:

  • 1, 3-10: Alpha Sesay, Helen Keller Intl
  • 2: Malin Fesehai, The New York Times