By: Carlie Congdon, Associate Director, Programs
I can’t believe it has been a year since I nervously prepared to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro as part of the 2015 Summit to See the END. The funds and awareness raising leading up to it was a challenge in itself that only further motivated me as I pushed myself up the mountain- thinking of the friends, family, and even complete strangers that I had rallied to join the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). We are so glad Sightsavers has joined us this year, and in this blog, they’ve reminded me that it is all for children like Anwar that we do what we do every day. I look forward to following their progress up the mountain and as partners to control and eliminate NTDs!
By: Mike Straney, Director of Major Giving, Sightsavers
The mantra of Team Sightsavers was inspired by the words immortalized by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
In two weeks, our five-strong team of Sightsavers staff will join the END Fund and 11 other dedicated individuals to climb to the summit of Africa’s greatest peak (all 5,895 meters/19,341 feet!) while raising funds and awareness for people going blind from NTDs such as river blindness and trachoma.
Our international team is comprised of myself, John Muriuki, our Regional Director for East, Central and Southern Africa, Moses Okipi from our Uganda office and Carly Buckley and Heather Getty from our UK office.
We have been holding bake sales, running sweepstakes on Soccer Euro 2016’s winning teams, and climbing the gentler peaks of Brighton’s South Downs in an effort to raise money to fund vital program work to eliminate NTDs globally.
We have been training together at lunchtimes, enduring gruelling gym sessions, and sharing motivational words to spur our team on to our ultimate goal of reaching the summit.
But the real motivation for me is through our work at Sightsavers, having seen first-hand the impact of these devastating diseases and the effect they have on people’s lives.
When three-year old Anwar was examined by Dr Jasser, a trachoma grader, during our Global Trachoma Mapping Project in Sudan, he was diagnosed with an active trachoma infection. “I don’t know what this disease is,” said his mother Skina, despite the fact that Sudan has one of the highest prevalence rates of trachoma in Africa.
The reasons the young child has an active infection were explained by Dr Jasser:
“Anwar’s home environment is very crowded – there are five other children in the family. There are a lot of flies and a lot of poverty. They have a lot of animals like goats and chickens living in the same environment as the children so it is not a clean environment. [We have told Skina] she must keep Anwar’s face clean and give him the antibiotic ointment…after six weeks the condition should clear up.”
Through our partnership with the END Fund, Sightsavers is delivering antibiotics to prevent blinding trachoma in Darfur, Sudan – a chronically underdeveloped country given the conflict over the last five decades.
Anwar is just one of the 230 million people who live in trachoma endemic areas and are at risk of infection which can lead to visual impairment and irreversible blindness.
Trekking for 7 days at high altitude with only 2 months to train is a way to demonstrate our dedication to eliminating NTDs for good!
Ridding the world of NTDs will be a major milestone in the history of human health, benefiting over a billion people who live in places where these diseases blind, maim, and kill. Working with the END Fund and other partners committed to eliminating NTDs, we’re providing treatment to millions of people.
But there’s much more to be done. By taking part in the Summit to See the END we hope to not only raise funds, but also awareness.