Parasitic worms are a major public health threat, affecting nearly a quarter of the world’s population. Disease caused by the most common of these infections — roundworm, hookworm, whipworm and schistosomiasis — have stymied human health for centuries, causing pain, stealing nutrients, and stunting both physical and cognitive growth in children, preventing them from reaching their full potential. While existing deworming programs have successfully reduced suffering caused by parasitic worms for millions, nearly half of Africa’s population remain at risk of infection. In Ethiopia alone, more than 20 million children remain at risk.
What is the Audacious Project?
The Audacious Project was launched in April 2018, with a mission to foster “collaborative philanthropy for bold ideas.” Housed at TED and operated with support from The Bridgespan Group (a leading social impact advisor to nonprofits and NGOs, philanthropists and investors), The Audacious Project brings together some of the most respected organizations and individuals in philanthropy — the Skoll Foundation, Virgin Unite, Dalio Foundation and more. The Audacious Project surfaces and funds critical projects with the potential to create global change.
“With initial funding raised through the Audacious Project, the END Fund garnered additional support for the Deworming Innovation Fund, which enables us to accelerate progress even faster than we had envisioned. This groundbreaking capital allows us to reduce the burden of intestinal worms and schistosomiasis in the four countries, and invest in innovative approaches to treatment, prevention, and sustainability.”
–Ellen Agler, END Fund CEO
The funding through TED’s Audacious Project enabled us to launch the Deworming Innovation Fund to accelerate progress towards towards tackling parasitic worm infections that affect more than 40 million children in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. These parasites are mind-blowingly inexpensive and easy to treat. Deworming pills, given once or twice a year, treat existing worms and help protect against new infections. We will leverage drug donations from pharmaceutical companies and at the same time will invest in precision mapping, careful monitoring, detailed modeling, integration with behavior change and sanitation strategies, scaling up of proven approaches to treatment, and increased community ownership. Developing national-scale deworming programs that are designed, run, and funded through locally-driven efforts is truly an audacious goal. We are confident this initiative can help boost the health of millions.
Deworming is one of the most cost-effective social investments. Studies show that children who are dewormed miss less school and girls are more likely to graduate secondary school. In fact overtime, children who are dewormed earn more money than their peers that do not receive treatment. A small initial investment in deworming children generates a return of 82% per year through higher earnings. Specifically, schistosomiasis leads to the deaths of more than 170,000 people per year. Ending intestinal worms and schistosomiasis would remove a large barrier to economic growth in communities across Africa.
Anchor funding for this project has been generously committed by a group of visionary partners including The ELMA Foundation, Delta Philanthropies, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Rosamund Zander and Hansjörg Wyss for the Wyss Medical Foundation, and Virgin Unite.