Merck and the END Fund Bolster Rwanda’s Plan to Eliminate Schistosomiasis by 2024

30 Jan 2021

Merck and the END Fund announced their partnership to provide Rwanda with 8 million additional tablets of praziquantel per year.

  • Additional 8 million tablets of praziquantel per year for the treatment of adults
  • Donation supports Rwanda’s strategic plan to eliminate schistosomiasis and other Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) by 2024

Merck, a leading science and technology company, and the END Fund today announced their partnership to provide Rwanda with 8 million additional tablets of praziquantel per year. The tablets are needed for treating adults endangered by schistosomiasis and will complement Merck’s annual donation for the treatment of school-aged children. The new partnership is an integral part of Rwanda’s NTD Strategic Plan to eliminate schistosomiasis and other NTDs as a public health problem by 2024.

“Back in 2007, more than a decade ago, Merck committed to the fight against schistosomiasis. Today we are taking another important step to eliminate this deadly disease in Rwanda together with the END Fund,” said Belén Garijo, Vice Chair of the Executive Board and Deputy CEO of Merck. “The additional quantities of praziquantel are urgently needed to support the communities at risk and will bring us one step closer to our goal of a schisto free world.”

Merck’s donation also represents a significant contribution to the Deworming Innovation Fund, a four-country initiative of the END Fund to progress towards the elimination of schistosomiasis and intestinal worms in Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. “The END Fund is thrilled to deepen its long-standing partnership with Merck with this generous donation. Through the Deworming Innovation Fund, it will allow our partners in Rwanda to reach more underserved communities with NTD treatments. This supports the government of Rwanda’s efforts to end schistosomiasis as a public health problem, which in turn leads to better educational and economic outcomes,” said Ellen Agler, CEO of the END Fund.

Annually, an estimated 4.3 million people in Rwanda require preventive treatment for schistosomiasis, of whom 1.6 million are school-aged children. Since 2011, Merck has donated more than 15.2 million tablets for the treatment of school-aged children to this East African country. To move towards the elimination of schistosomiasis, it is necessary to treat the entire population at risk, including children and adults. Through this partnership, treatment for adults will be made available. The END Fund has been a key partner for the Rwandan national strategic plan for NTDs in the past and continues to do so through its Deworming Innovation Fund.

Merck and the END Fund announced their partnership on the occasion of the second World NTD Day on January 30, 2021. The World NTD Day is supported by over 230 international partners to raise awareness for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and to call for action to put an end to these diseases.

Praziquantel donations from Merck have enabled the treatment of 520 million school-aged children

Schistosomiasis is a chronic condition and one of the most common and most devastating parasitic diseases in tropical countries. It is estimated that more than 240 million people are infected worldwide and that around 200,000 people die from it each year. The disease is transmitted by parasitic flatworms and the infection rate is particularly high among school-aged children.

Merck has been fighting schistosomiasis with its partner WHO within the scope of its Merck Schistosomiasis Elimination Program since 2007. Both parties committed themselves to continue their work in fighting the disease until its elimination. Merck has set itself the goal to achieve this in selected countries by 2030 through a comprehensive approach combining treatment, research and development, health education, and WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene). To date, the company has donated more than 1.3 billion tablets of praziquantel, enabling the treatment of 520 million school-aged children.