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What We Do

Controlling and Eliminating Neglected Tropical Diseases

Neglected tropical diseases — including trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis and soil-transmitted helminths — are a group of mainly parasitic, viral, or bacterial diseases that can cause a host of disabling conditions such as blindness, undernutrition, and painful physical deformities. In addition to the physical impact of these diseases, the lost economic opportunities and social stigma can be equally devastating. Because they are most prevalent in lower income countries, where basic healthcare can be a challenge, neglected tropical diseases are also sometimes referred to “diseases of poverty.” Luckily, many of these diseases are entirely preventable or treatable.

Integrated Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases

Helen Keller Intl has a long history of supporting efforts to eliminate and control neglected tropical diseases. Since 2018, Helen Keller has been the lead implementing partner of the USAID’s Act to End Neglected Tropical Diseases (Act | West) program. Working in six out of 11 Act | West countries, Helen Keller aids Ministries of Health in West Africa in their goals to control and eliminate diseases, as well as integrate treatment into national health systems, ensuring greater sustainability of program achievements. Prior to Act | West, Helen Keller helped implement USAID-funded END in AfricaENVISION, and NTD Control Program projects and managed USAID’s Morbidity Management and Disability Prevention project.

In addition to USAID-funded projects, Helen Keller has been a partner on the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s Eliminating Trachoma project since 1998. In 2008, funding to support the elimination of trachoma as a public health problem launched in Mali, Niger, and Tanzania. Helen Keller served as the lead implementing partner for the Department for International Development / Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office UNITED and ASCEND projects from 2014 to 2021. The focus of these initiatives was to control and eliminate neglected tropical diseases in Katsina, Borno, and Adamawa States in Nigeria, as well as to eliminate trachoma in Tanzania in collaboration with Sightsavers. Since 2015, Helen Keller has been implementing the END Fund’s integrated neglected tropical disease projects in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.  

The organization has also been a key player in the END Fund’s Reaching the Last Mile project, targeting the elimination of onchocerciasis and supporting lymphatic filariasis morbidity management since 2018 in Mali and Niger. Plus, a number of other neglected tropical disease projects and activities funded by various donors are coordinated at the country-level across Africa and Asia.  

Success Stories

COVID-19 has had a major impact on neglected tropical disease control and elimination activities since the pandemic began in March 2020. Despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as political or sociopolitical insecurity, and challenging implementing environments, significant progress has been made towards the control and elimination of trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis, and soil-transmitted helminths. Helen Keller has continued to support national efforts with the Ministries of Health to adapt and establish risk mitigation strategies and standard operating procedures. These measures include supporting Ministries of Health to purchase and use personal protective equipment like face masks and hand gel and shifting treatment strategies to reduce the potential transmission of COVID-19. Together, we’ve achieved many noteworthy successes:

Research and Learning

Helen Keller is an active contributor and participant in the global neglected tropical disease community. We regularly participate in the annual American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) conference, with many staff submitting abstracts, providing presentations, and leading symposia and in the annual meeting of the Coalition for Operational Research on NTDs (COR-NTD). Helen Keller is also a member of the NTD NGO Network (NNN). We prioritize dissemination of research and best practices related to the implementation of mass drug administration (MDA), disease-specific assessment surveys, and social science research.


Number of Persons Trained
Since the beginning of Act | West, Helen Keller has supported trainings for over 514,000 community drug distributors for mass drug administrations, surveyors for disease specific assessment, and trainers and supervisors to ensure activities are implemented with high-quality.
Since the beginning of Act | West, Helen Keller Intl has supported mass drug administrations to treat over 41,675,000 people and distribute over 66,060,000 treatments for at least one neglected tropical disease across six countries.
The success of mass drug administrations has significantly reduced the numbers of people at risk for two diseases targeted for elimination – lymphatic filariasis and trachoma. As of 2021, 82% of people are no longer at risk for lymphatic filariasis and 91% of people are no longer at risk for trachoma.