Sightsavers report shows how NTD programme could help fight COVID-19 in Africa

30 May 2020

Sightsavers has a wealth of experience in NTD programme support including assisting Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia during the devastating Ebola outbreak. Although Sightsavers suspended some of its NTD activities at that time, it also helped ministries of health in the countries to tackle some of the challenges Ebola had created. It did this by ‘flexing’ its projects to help governments deal with the catastrophic impact the illness had on communities and health systems. The international charity is now using these valuable and hard-earned lessons to explore how to flex the Ascend West and Central Africa programme to help deal with the pandemic.

The WHO has issued interim guidance for the implementation of NTD programmes and community-based health care in the context of Covid-19, recommending that community-based surveys and mass treatment campaigns be temporarily suspended. The WHO also recommended that the diagnosis, treatment and care of NTDs in healthcare facilities could continue and that community-based vector control and veterinary public health practices should be supported. It also endorsed the idea that existing NTD platforms, surveillance mechanisms and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), as well as other health education opportunities, are used to support the implementation of measures to deal with the pandemic.

Through the Ascend West and Central Africa programme, Sightsavers and partners are working with 13 countries to target five NTD diseases: trachoma, river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis and intestinal worms/soil-transmitted helminths. The countries are:

  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Cote d'Ivoire
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea Bissau
  • Liberia
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Sierra Leone

Sightsavers together with different governments and partners is looking at how to assist in the response to the pandemic in Ascend countries by:

  • Adapting mass drug administration to help with preparing, responding to, and recovering from COVID-19.
  • Adjusting patient care and disease management to help with COVID-19 preparedness, response and recovery.
  • Incorporating COVID-19 social and behaviour change information into NTD communication materials and mass media campaigns.
  • Evolving NTD digital data tools and platforms to support COVID-19 surveillance systems.
  • Supporting the COVID-19 response through established supply chains.
  • Re-deploying advisers, technical assistants, logisticians, managers and other personnel to support COVID-19 efforts.
  • Leveraging its implementation networks and partnerships to focus on a joined-up and effective response to COVID-19 on the ground.
  • Bolstering COVID-19 surveillance by pivoting the efforts of NTD case finders and community volunteers.


Read Sightsavers May report here How Sightsavers’ NTD team is responding to COVID-19 or download the PDF below.

Read the full report by Prof David Molyneux, chair of the Ascend technical consultative committee, on how Ascend can be leveraged to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus. Download the report below or access it online through here:  COVID-19 and NTDs: Implications for Sightsavers-supported