Population mobility is a result of globalisation that will likely continue to increase exponentially. EXPAND, a new project led by Swiss TPH, aims to expand neglected tropical diseases and COVID-19 surveillance and control to mobile pastoralists in Chad by increasing access to health information and services, and promoting integrated interventions. Facilitating access for this population ensures that "no one is left behind" - a prerequisite for disease elimination and the achievement of universal health coverage.
Mobile pastoralists represent an important population group in Chad and face difficulties in accessing health services. They travel long distances in search of seasonal pastures for their animals in which they live in close contact with, and interact with other local populations along their migration routes. Migrant pastoralists face limited access to preventive and curative health services. They are also insufficiently covered by static infectious disease surveillance and prevention programmes. Facilitating access to this population ensures that "no one is left behind" - a prerequisite for disease elimination.
A new project led by Swiss TPH works towards expanding neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and COVID-19 surveillance and control to mobile pastoralists in Chad (EXPAND). The project aims to establish integrated surveillance and access to health information and services, and work towards the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 and NTDs in the mobile pastoralist populations.
"We are looking forward to working together with project partners both locally and internationally to enable a targeted and rapid response to the health needs of this population group," said Peter Steinmann, Public Health Specialist and Epidemiologist at Swiss TPH and EXPAND project leader. "In addition to increasing access to health for some of the most vulnerable groups, we hope that EXPAND will serve as a model for how other countries can extend public health services to mobile populations in their local setting in the future."
The project aims to raise awareness about hygiene behaviour and infectious diseases symptoms, facilitate disease surveillance through simple reporting mechanisms and establish permanent access to the mobile pastoralist population by training community volunteers who serve as points of contact. While the whole community will profit from the intervention through health education, surveillance and healthier animals, the project also ensures that access to diagnostic and health services is particularly available for children and women, the most vulnerable groups within these communities.