Anesvad: An advertisement where no one looks | Impact campaigns | future planet

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At the exit of Griñón (Madrid), on one of those billboards that are usually empty because nobody pays attention to them, you can see these days an advertising out of the ordinary. The photograph of a young woman from a village in Benin smiling shyly, on behalf of the Anesvad Foundation, thanks all those who dare to put their eyes there “where no one looks”. Like this one, there are five more on the edges of some little-crowded roads in Madrid and the Basque Country, other forgotten places in the regions where most of the entity’s 60,000 members are found.

The particular campaign coincides with the International Day of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD), which is celebrated on January 30, and seeks to focus on the work carried out by the foundation to bring health to some of the most ignored areas of the planet . There Anesvad contributes to confronting very diverse diseases that threaten some one billion people, generally very impoverished, throughout the world, according to data from the World Health Organization. These ailments are caused by different pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi or toxins, which once they attack a person can produce painful and unpleasant physical symptoms, as well as a string of consequences in the social and economic sphere, beyond strictly sanitary.

However, finding a cure is not the challenge. In most cases there are accessible treatments -many can be cured with common antibiotics-, but for various reasons these do not reach the areas where these diseases occur most. It is a vicious circle of resources and profits: it is not profitable for the companies that produce these drugs to make them available to such poor communities, and for the same reason, diseases are virtually ignored by global research and funding agencies. All this means that there is no progress in the search for cheaper alternatives and the outlook remains the same.

Anesvad is present in Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Togo. There it fights skin ailments, mainly leprosy, yaws, filariasis or Buruli ulcer

But neglect is also a geographic issue because, as their name suggests, NTDs are present in tropical areas, mainly in rural and hard-to-reach areas of some of the world’s least developed countries. There, the availability of drinking water and sanitation services – which are capable of preventing a large number of cases – is scarce and the nearest health care can be several hours away.

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This dynamic directly affects millions of people around the world who are exposed to the 20 diseases listed by the WHO under the umbrella of NTDs. However, Anesvad is currently only present in Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Togo. There, it combats skin ailments, mainly leprosy, yaws, filariasis or Buruli ulcer from several fronts: collaborating with governments, civil society and together with other international agents, as well as supporting more specifically the health authorities of each one of these countries.

One of the billboards of the Anesvad campaign located in Alto Basori in Urioste (Basque Country).
One of the billboards of the Anesvad campaign located in Alto Basori in Urioste (Basque Country).bald elm

It is a return to the origins of the foundation, which began working against leprosy in the Philippines in the 1970s, but decades later carried out varied projects – maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health, community health, trafficking in human beings. humans, in addition to neglected tropical diseases, both in Asia and in Latin America and Africa. However, five years ago, after an internal analysis of the direction of the foundation, it was decided to concentrate efforts on combating these NTDs that appear on the skin and in the most forgotten continent of all, thus returning to the mission with which it all started.

This mission revolves around a “holistic” vision of health, explains Miren Hualde, head of communication at the foundation, who adds that the current advertising campaign claims precisely this. Through six different images of residents of a town in Benin, taken by local photojournalist Yannick Folly, the foundation emphasizes that in addition to helping to cure the sick, its work consists of supporting the communities where these diseases occur, in line with the WHO Roadmap for the eradication of NTDs and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

At the moment when health and covid stop being in the headlines every day, our challenge will be to continue maintaining the discourse that without health there is nothing

Look at Hualde, head of communication at the Anesvad foundation

Since the challenges to face these diseases are diverse and multiply, multiple solutions are required that range from the training and advice of medical personnel, the supply of supplies and medicines, the construction of infrastructures or early detection campaigns, to programs to teach hygiene practices or for the empowerment of women, who are the ones who usually end up bearing the family burden if any of these ailments are present at their core.

One of the billboards of the Anesvad campaign located at the roundabout at the exit of the town of Griñon (Madrid).
One of the billboards of the Anesvad campaign located at the roundabout at the exit of the town of Griñon (Madrid).bald elm

Anesvad does all these things in the countries where it has a presence, says Hualde. “We avoid only the medical perspective and go to a more complete vision, which is not only not having a bacteria, but once recovered, rehabilitation is possible, reintegration into the community – because these diseases also greatly marginalize those who suffer from them – and that the person can have a job, earn money and generate a little development”.

According to the WHO objectives, there are eight years to eradicate or control the different NTDs, depending on the current state of prevalence and knowledge about each disease. It is an ambitious mission, but achievable if the wills and efforts are combined, Anesvad defends. One only has to look back at the last two years, in which health has received absolute media and financial attention, to show that, when you want, it is possible to promote research and the fight against evil. However, says Hualde: “When health and covid stop being in the headlines every day, our challenge will be to continue maintaining the discourse that without health there is nothing.”

The 20 Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)

Buruli ulcer; Chagas disease; dengue and chikungunya; dracunculiasis; echinococcosis; foodborne trematodiasis; human African trypanosomiasis; leishmaniasis; leprosy; lymphatic filariasis; mycetoma, chromoblastomycosis and other deep mycoses; onchocerciasis; Rage; scabies and other ectoparasitosis; schistosomiasis; soil-transmitted helminth infections; snakebite poisoning; taeniasis/cysticercosis; trachoma and yaws.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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