Over 600 elephantiasis patients treated in Lira as LF-MMDP project closes

(Last Updated On: 4 August 2023)

Lira I The Lango Lymphatic Filariasis Mobility Management Disability Project (LF-MMDP) implemented by Sight Savers, an international non-governmental organization in the nine districts in Lango sub-region is due to end.

TND News understands that the shs4 billion 3-year project will be ending in September 2023 after it was launched in 2020 by the Ministry of Health. The aim was to eliminate hydrocele and elephantiasis from the Lango sub-region, which according to statistics had the highest number of cases in the country.

Sight Savers has since 2020 provided surgeries, care and treatment for lymphedema to about 630 patients within the Lira district.

Lymphatic filariasis or what is widely known as elephantiasis is considered globally as a neglected tropical disease. It is a parasitic disease caused by microscopic, thread-like worms.

It is transmitted by different types of mosquitoes, for example by the Culex mosquito, widespread across urban and semi-urban areas, Anopheles, mainly found in rural areas, and Aedes, mainly in endemic islands in the Pacific.

On Thursday, July 3, different stakeholders among them district health officials held a meeting dubbed: improving the livelihoods of persons with advanced Lymphatic Filariasis in the Lango sub-region.

While addressing Lira district health officials and district stakeholders, Sight Savers’ project coordinator of the LF-MMDP programme in Lango sub-region, Moses Okello says from their inception, the project has benefited 630 patients in Lira district alone.

Okello says in 2020, their target in Lira district as a whole was about 320 cases but due to advocacy, mobilization, sensitization and LF champions, the number of LF-MMDP beneficiaries rose to 630. He describes it as “the highest in the region”.

“We started in 2020 and it moved very well, we got a very good welcome and at the time when we came, we registered quite a number of hydrocele suspected cases which we wanted to operate and they were about 2,000 registered in the whole Lango sub-region,” Okello added.

According to Okello, Lira district alone registered 630 hydrocele cases that had successful surgeries, attributing this to the efforts put across by the village health teams who combed all the villages.

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“We need to accept that hydrocele comes with a stigma, the first time you will go to the community, not everyone will accept to register but because the VHTs used their skills, Lira district was able to register these numbers.

Though the 2020-2023 project is coming to an end, Okello says their operations were, however, hindered by the Covid-19 pandemic and the negative attitude of society towards hydrocele.

“We had to hold our activities for about 6-8 months due to the pandemics that subsequently came in,” he says.

Rashid Mwesige Etwop, the vector control officer for Lira district says that Lymphatic filariasis is an infection that occurs when filarial parasites are transmitted to humans through mosquitoes, usually acquired in childhood and causing hidden damage to the lymphatic system.

“The painful and profoundly disfiguring visible manifestations of the disease – lymphoedema, elephantiasis and scrotal swelling – occur later in life and can lead to permanent disability,” the vector officer says.

Etwop says that surgeries on about 630 registered cases in Lira district alone were a success due to the efforts put towards mobilization by the Village Health Teams.

Since the LF-MMDP project in Lango sub-region as a whole is coming to an end, Etwop, however, urges people who still need the services not to shy away, citing that Ogur Health Center IV and Amach Health Center IV will still be providing services to help suspects.

“Peace and harmony have been restored in about 630 families having carried out surgeries on 630 lymphatic suspects in Lira district,” according to Etwop.

Lira district health officer, Dr Patrick Buchan Ocen now says Lira district is going to be committed to carrying forward a sustainability response through mitigation strategies like, among others, setting clinic days for Lymphatic Filariasis, Integration of Lymphatic Filariasis activities into other health activities, strengthening stakeholder involvement in Lymphatic Filariasis, allocating budget towards Neglected Tropical Diseases and setting Lymphatic Filariasis champions to tell their testimonies to encourage other suspects and mind-set change to both doctors and clients.

Key facts

  • Lymphatic filariasis impairs the lymphatic system and can lead to the abnormal enlargement of body parts, causing pain, severe disability and social stigma.
  • Over 882 million people in 44 countries worldwide remain threatened by lymphatic filariasis and require preventive chemotherapy to stop the spread of this parasitic infection.
  • Lymphatic filariasis can be eliminated by stopping the spread of infection through preventive chemotherapy with safe medicine combinations repeated annually. More than 9 billion cumulative treatments have been delivered to stop the spread of infection since 2000.
  • Due to the successful implementation of WHO strategies, 740 million people no longer require preventive chemotherapy.
  • An essential, recommended package of care can alleviate suffering and prevent further disability among people living with a disease caused by lymphatic filariasis.

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