Dr. Madsen Beau de Rochars of Haiti and Dr. Manuel Gonzales of the Dominican Republic work closely together toward the elimination of malaria and lymphatic filariasis across difficult geopolitical, cultural, and linguistic lines
For nearly 20 years, Dr. Manuel Gonzales of the Dominican Republic and Dr. Madsen Beau de Rochars of Haiti have collaborated to fight these diseases across difficult geopolitical, cultural, and linguistic lines. Countless times, they have exchanged data, coordinated treatments, and put their heads together to solve challenges to ensure success on both sides of the border.
Based in the southern Haitian city of Léogâne, Beau de Rochars helped launch Haiti’s LF elimination program in 2000 by conducting nationwide mapping surveys and launching mass drug administration in affected areas. At that time, LF was endemic to all of Haiti’s 140 districts. Today, 4.2 million Haitians no longer require treatment and transmission is limited to 22 districts.
“I think we can make it” to elimination, said Beau de Rochars, who maintains an advisory role with the Haiti Ministry of Health’s LF program through a Carter Center consultancy.
“I’ve been in it from the very beginning,” he said, “when eliminating lymphatic filariasis was just a dream. And now you see that it’s real. I could not be more excited. I’m very motivated to see this program succeed.”
The program relies on trusted, Carter Center-trained community members to deliver accurate health information and donated medicines to their neighbors. Beau de Rochars believes success against lymphatic filariasis, a neglected disease of neglected people, is breeding success against malaria.
The energy and motivation invested in reducing LF are being applied to malaria as well, yielding promising progress against both.
“There are lessons we learned from LF that we are applying to malaria,” Beau de Rochars said.
Gonzales, who has led the Dominican Republic’s National Program to Eliminate LF since 2001, has overseen similar success on his side of the border. Following nationwide disease mapping and distribution of more than 1 million treatments, all formerly LF-endemic areas qualified to stop mass drug administration in 2018; program experts now are conducting surverys to confirm that transmission of the disease has been interrupted throughout the country.
The Pan American Health Organization recognized the two countries’ cross-border partnership with its 2017 Malaria Champion in the Americas Award. The award committee cited the partners’ “outstanding achievements and creative response using innovative technologies that involve the private sector and community and traditional health workers to improve surveillance, diagnosis and treatment of malaria in both countries.”
Although setbacks are to be expected, both sides of the island are moving toward elimination of both diseases. As far as Gonzales is concerned, national rivalries will not hinder their success in this joint effort.
“Progress for Haiti is progress for us,” he said. “I feel a solidarity with them. If they reduce prevalence of lymphatic filariasis, we will reduce prevalence. So, together we will do whatever we have to do.”
Original Story Courtesy of The Carter Center