Chagas disease is common in places where you find the triatomine bug, often called the “kissing bug” or the “blood sucking bug” that transmits a parasite. It is mostly found in South America, Central America, and Mexico and infects as many as 8 million people. The disease can cause swelling and fever, and without treatment can be long lasting. Left untreated, it can cause congestive heart failure.
For nearly 30 years, MAP has worked to fight Chagas in rural Bolivia. Since 2014, the AbbVie Foundation has supported MAP’s efforts to provide sustainable, human-centered solutions to combat Chagas. These efforts include community health worker training, educational public health campaigns, diagnosis and treatment support, and working with the government to improve hygiene and residential infrastructure.
The triatomine bugs often make their way into homes constructed from mud bricks or where the dwelling has cracks or openings. There they bite the inhabitants, transmitting the parasite as they draw blood.
Recently, MAP and Abbvie asked Notre Dame’s Initiative for Global Development division to evaluate the Chagas Program. Notre Dame evaluators traveled to Bolivia and met with more than 180 individuals to determine the effectiveness of the program.
The Chagas Program “has consistently achieved its targets for program reach and service delivery over the course of its implementation,” the evaluators reported. Between 2015 and 2017 the program served more than 30,000 individuals, trained 500 health workers and 400 community members, and screened nearly 7,500 for the disease.
“We used to get very cold in our houses, but now we are warm,” commented one local woman after learning how to insulate her home not only from the weather but also from the insects. “The vinchucas (blood sucking bugs) used to eat us alive, but now they don’t.”
One community member noted that most people were not aware of Chagas and did not know it was “a disease that causes complications in the heart and intestines…. Now, with the training workshops, people recognize the ‘kissing bug,’ know that it carries a silent disease, and know how to perform the corresponding treatment to keep their homes clean.”
Said Steve Stirling, MAP President and CEO, “We’re so pleased to have an objective study done on this important work. It demonstrates that the efforts of local staff and the contributions of donors are making a huge difference in the lives of so many people.”
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