Ensuring Expert Care Reaches the Marginalised

Ten-year-old Hannah lives in a small village in Liberia, surrounded by lush, green vegetation. It’s a remote place; after driving two hours on brown dirt, Hannah’s family can arrive at the closest main road.

One day, when Hannah was running to call everyone in for dinner, she felt a sudden pain in her knee. The next day a bump appeared on her lower left leg, and then it burst into an ulcer. Hannah’s parents spent a large sum on local remedies, but she didn’t improve. She was in pain and her parents were desperate, so Hannah and her mother travelled hours to the nearest clinic.

When they arrived, the nurse realised right away that Hannah had a severe case of Buruli ulcer.

“She couldn’t walk – her mother carried her around on her back and Hannah’s leg was bigger than my thigh! We sent for the Buruli ulcer officer right away. He brought the antibiotics personally and immediately because we could see it was so urgent. Hannah was on the verge of death.”

People like Hannah are the reason American Leprosy Missions launched the AIM (Accelerating Integrated Management) Initiative. AIM is pioneering a method to map people with Buruli ulcer, leprosy and other neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that cause disabilities. These maps show where affected, marginalised people are located and where cases of different diseases overlap, making it easier to target treatment. With this knowledge, a government can mobilise personnel and resources to improve access to care and prevent further disability. 

The AIM Initiative equips and empowers governments to provide better care, faster, by:

  • Mapping: creating maps that show where suffering, neglected people are located;
  • Planning: helping governments develop strategic, long-term plans to target NTDs; and
  • Implementing: supporting implementation of those plans by providing health worker training and education, equipping medical professionals to diagnose diseases, and supplying drugs and medical supplies.

The AIM Initiative works to ensure that children like Hannah are diagnosed and treated more quickly, receiving expert care no matter where they live. Through programmes like AIM, we move closer to a world without leprosy and other devastating diseases!

Reposted with permission from The American Leprosy Missions – originally published in October 2019 here.