This past October, the STH Advisory Committee, formerly the Mebendazole Advisory Committee, convened its 7th annual meeting in Geneva. The meeting provided an opportunity for CWW and its partners in STH control to come together to focus on several important goals. First, to develop strategies that will enable countries to successfully use the combined 600 million doses of deworming drugs that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will donate annually. Second, to explore CWW’s role in supporting a comprehensive control strategy for STH through engagement with the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and education sectors. A highlight at the meeting’s close was recognition of the accomplishments of outgoing committee chair Mr. Ibrahim Jabr, and welcoming of incoming chair Dr. Susan Zimicki.
This past October, the STH Advisory Committee, formerly the Mebendazole Advisory Committee, convened its 7th meeting in Geneva. The meeting provided an opportunity for CWW and its partners in STH control to come together to focus on several important goals. First, to develop priorities and establish an interim expansion strategy for the next year as the WHO finalizes a global STH control strategy and processes. Second, to explore the role of CWW and the Advisory Committee during this interim period.
CWW staff, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) representatives, the World Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO) regional representatives, and non-government organizations (NGOs) attended the meeting. A highlight at the meeting’s close was recognition of the many accomplishments of the outgoing chair, Mr. Ibrahim Jabr, and the welcoming of Dr. Susan Zimicki as incoming committee chair.
Mr. Jabr’s noteworthy professional background spans over 34 years. During this time, he led large child survival and development programs for UNICEF in various countries and served as president of the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI). He became chair of the STH Advisory Committee in 2009, and has been a member of the committee since it began in 2006.
Over his seven years on the committee, Mr. Jabr saw CWW mature as a program. As chair, he helped CWW develop a long-term strategic plan to effectively utilize the drug donations in the recipient countries. He also supported the committee’s efforts to identify critical issues that CWW could tackle with the larger STH control community. For example, these efforts led to CWW promoting the WASHED Framework (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene, Deworming) for comprehensive STH control. Mr. Jabr emphasizes, “Treatment alone does not make the disease disappear. You need an environmental approach and behavioral change that sustain the gains made from the drugs.”
Mr. Jabr credits CWW’s progress during his tenure as member and chair of the Advisory Committee to its past chairs, the committed and hardworking team at CWW, and continued, significant support from J&J.
Looking to the future, Mr. Jabr believes that strengthening ownership of programs at the country level is the “key ingredient for successful STH control.” He feels that CWW will play a significant role in providing technical and programmatic assistance and guidance that will strengthen country capacity to implement comprehensive STH control programs.
He is confident that CWW’s successes will continue under Dr. Zimicki’s leadership. Mr. Jabr observes, “She appreciates the need to focus on the balance between STH treatment, prevention, and advocacy.”
Like Mr. Jabr, Dr. Zimicki anticipates CWW continuing to play an important role in STH control. She also explains that the expanded donations, along with CWW’s partnership with the WHO, GSK, and J&J to coordinate the donations, make this an especially exciting time for STH control.
Dr. Zimicki joined the STH advisory committee in 2007. She brings close to 30 years of experience working at the community level to address a number of diseases. Her experience includes work with the WHO to identify community-directed treatment of onchocerciasis as a feasible and effective intervention, and performing assessments of school health programs in Africa. These experiences required significant cross-sector collaboration, which helped her appreciate the complexities of coordinating an NTD program.
She echoes Mr. Jabr’s sentiments that CWW can add tremendous value by helping build capacity in the recipient countries. “Part of capacity building [for school-based control of STH] requires mindfully involving the education system,” she says. Dr. Zimicki notes that CWW has experience with building bridges between Ministries of Health (MOHs) and Ministries of Education (MOEs) in recipient countries.
To further support CWW’s engagement with the education sector, Dr. Zimicki states that in 2012, CWW will add an Advisory Committee member from the education sector with experience with school-based deworming programs. Furthermore, she believes that CWW’s regional technical assistance workshops can play a key role in improving working relationships between MOHs and MOEs.
Another critical area that Dr. Zimicki feels CWW and the Advisory Committee must address is treating school-age children who are not attending school. She believes NGOs are the ideal organizations to do this work because they know the communities well. “Providing NGOs with technical support is a cost-efficient, scalable way that will help reach these children.” she says. She continues, “With Kim Koporc as vice-chair of the NTD NGDO Network, CWW is well-positioned to help build bridges with and between NGOs.”
Dr. Zimicki notes that she steps into the role of chair after much progress has already been made. Under Mr. Jabr’s leadership, CWW has transformed from a small organization to an important player in the STH control community. Dr. Zimicki attributes this transformation to “the larger programmatic perspective that Ibrahim brought. He really shepherded the committee to understand its role and to help CWW mature.”
As incoming committee chair, Dr. Zimicki will support CWW’s efforts to build capacity and increase coordination towards the long-term goal of promoting comprehensive control of STH. She observes, “Control of NTDs has experienced huge advances in recent years, and STH has begun to get the attention it deserves.” She concludes, “CWW is a group that can add value to the global deworming effort.” Coordination and partnership will allow all the partners involved “to maximize the benefits of the wonderful donations from J&J and GSK.”