Success Stories from SEAR Member States

2017

Owning Success: How Maldives became measles-free

Hours-long boat journeys over treacherous sea. Arduous treks across trying terrain. And days of painstaking planning to ensure all people eligible to be vaccinated are reached.

These are just a few of the challenges Maldives’ health workers faced while eliminating measles, a vaccine-preventable disease the country was verified to be free of in April 2017.

But according to Aminath Nasheedha, a vaccinator of more than 35 years’ experience, the most important factor in eliminating the life-threatening disease was creating a sense of community ownership and buy-in.

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Finishing off lymphatic filariasis: How Maldives eliminated a once-prominent scourge

Lymphatic filariasis (LF) can have a powerful effect on the human psyche. For those who suffer LF, anguish and shame is an experience as common as deprivation and disability. And for those who live where LF is found, fear and dread too often win-out over compassion and care. Discrimination can result.

Mohamed Ismail Fulhu, once part of an LF blood-sampling team in Maldives’ southern atolls, remembers when in the 1960s he first encountered the psychological impact LF can have. While doing his rounds, a villager asked him: “How can you not worry for your own health when you go to do the blood sampling? I will not even walk in their footsteps because otherwise I too will get sick like them.”

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Choosing life: How Maldives is promoting healthy lifestyle choices to reverse the NCD burden

For Ali Mohammad, a 33-year-old property management worker who began smoking in his teens, the saying ‘health is wealth’ has special significance.

After Maldives hiked import duties on tobacco products to 60% of retail price in May 2017, Ali made a potentially life-saving decision. “My health and pocket was suffering,” he explains. “Obviously, this was becoming a more and more costly habit for me. I decided to quit.”

That is exactly the response Maldives’ Ministry of Health set out to encourage. As Health Minister Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim emphasized on World No Tobacco Day, “Smoking brings nothing but harm to everyone,” costing Maldives an estimated USD 17.1 million annually and killing 11.3% and 7.1% of men and women in the country respectively.

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Timor-Leste’s intrepid quest to secure health and wellbeing for all

Lorentina Amaral’s house sits atop a hill, where the 21-year-old lives with her husband, three children and extended family. The home isn’t easy to reach by car; the best and safest way is to walk.

Two of Amaral’s children are as healthy as any parent could hope for. But the third — Interfenia da Costa, now three-years old— had health issues his mother couldn’t understand. Or at least not until a doctor, nurse and midwife came calling as part of the Saúde na Família programme’s domiciliary visits.

“My third son was born healthy. He weighed a good 3 kg at birth. But the problems started when he was six months old. He developed fever and diarrhea-like symptoms,” Amaral explains at a Community Health Center in Ailieu, a district in Timor-Leste’s northeast.

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Access for all: How the Indian state of Punjab is honing in on hepatitis

Bhajan Singh* is a happy man. The 52-year-old from Punjab, India, is now clear of the hepatitis C infection he once suffered and which could have threatened his life if left untreated. Significantly for Bhajan and his family, he has also been spared the crippling financial burden often associated with hepatitis treatment – an outcome he credits to a new treatment fund implemented by Punjab’s state government.

“Before the start of the Mukha Mantri (Chief Minister’s) Hepatitis-C Relief Fund I was paying for treatment from my own pocket – about INR 15 000 (USD 228) per month,” he explains. “But after the scheme started I was provided all medicines free of cost. Though my family and I were earlier worried, today we are happy. I am disease-free.”

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Seeing Red: How Sri Lanka is striving to stop NCDs

Shamima Marikar’s children are like most below the age of six: They have a taste for sugar that must be regulated and restrained.

Though the 35-year-old mom says her children are too young to understand sugar’s adverse health effects – from causing diabetes to contributing to heart disease – Sri Lanka’s new ‘traffic light’ labelling system is helping them understand one basic but important truth: Sugar is bad.

“Now when I advise my children about sugary drinks I have something to show them and make them understand which ones are high in sugar and which ones are not,” she says. “They have started to pick up on this and avoid items with a red label.”

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Discovering who misses out on health: The example of Indonesia

Childbirth can be dangerous even in the most sterile hospitals. But unhygienic conditions add an additional deadly threat to women and their babies: tetanus.

Tetanus can be prevented with an inexpensive vaccine, but women who are poor or live in remote areas often lack access to essential services such as immunization and are at greater risk.

That was the situation in Indonesia in 2012. Immunization programmes had eliminated tetanus in three of the sprawling archipelago’s four regions, but lower vaccination rates in the poorest West Papua region meant that the disease remained a major threat there.

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