When Sahr Gando, a miner and farmer living in Sierra Leone’s Kono District, contracted schistosomiasis, he found himself unable to work, due to the severe abdominal pain and other debilitating symptoms, and unable to support his family.
Schistosomiasis, or snail fever, is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) transmitted by parasites in contaminated water. Miners who stand all day in water searching for rough diamonds and gold are especially vulnerable. Sahr is not alone: a staggering 2.2 million people are at risk of schistosomiasis in Sierra Leone’s northeast district. Worldwide, schistosomiasis infects 207 million people and kills an estimated 280,000 people each year in nearly 78 countries, making it the second leading parasitic killer after malaria.
Helen Keller International has assisted Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health in providing almost half a million people, including Sahr, with life-saving medicines to treat snail fever through mass drug administrations in high risk communities. Because the treatment is safe, effective and does not require medical infrastructure, community members can distrubute these vital drugs with basic training.
Building local capacity to distrubute drugs for prevention and treatment is helping to control and eliminate snail fever and other devastating diseases and give men in their prime working years like Sahr a chance at a better life.