Treating the little-known Buruli ulcer
I am in Liberia this week to celebrate the delivery of a large shipment of medicines and medical supplies valued at $6.5 million that will be used to treat people here suffering from the little-known tropical disease called Buruli ulcer.
The shipment is a joint project between two Atlanta-based nonprofits – my organization, MAP International, and our good partner MedShare. Monday, I presented the contents of the 40-foot sea container to officials from the Liberian Ministry of Health at their office in the capital city of Monrovia.
Buruli ulcer is officially classified as a “neglected tropical disease” (or NTD). The World Health Organization uses the term neglected because they are just that – neglected. Too few people know about or pay attention to them, despite the significant impact they have on the health of people in developing nations. Even government health officials in Liberia previously neglected Buruli. After years and years of civil war in the country they were unaware of the presence of the disease in their country. MAP and a number of partners identified cases of the disease in 2012 and since that time we have supported the development of a Buruli program in Liberia.
Buruli is a disease that eats away skin, muscle and bone, leaving its victims with permanent disfigurements and disabilities. Treatment involves months of antibiotics and constant changing of wound dressings. That is where the shipment we celebrated Monday comes in.
MedShare has an excellent model to recover used equipment and unused medical supplies primarily from a network of hospitals and clinics. MAP’s model is to work directly with manufacturers to receive donations of medicines and medical supplies. When we work together, MAP and MedShare can fill a large sea container with quality medicines, supplies and equipment for use in a health program. That is just we have done in this case to support the Buruli program in Liberia.
At the same meeting today we celebrated delivery of a second large sea container containing medicines and supplies valued at $6.7 million from MAP to the Curran Lutheran Hospital in Liberia. The hospital serves people in the far north of the country, a rural and very impoverished part of Liberia. I will be visiting Curran on Wednesday to assess the delivery and further needs at the hospital.
Liberia and its people have many connections to Atlanta. Development agencies like the Carter Center and CARE are here. Ties are being built between academic institutions and businesses in Atlanta and Liberia. Delta Airlines now flies to Monrovia. More connections are being built every day. The country needs are help as it emerges from the decades of civil war. I heard this statistic today: 95 percent of the Liberian population lives below the international poverty line. Ninety-five percent. Wow.