It might be hard to imagine what it’s like to suffer from a disease like schistosomiasis. The name itself is hard to pronounce, and most people don’t know of anyone who has ever had it…
…Unless they’re from, or have lived in one of the nearly 80 countries where schistosomiasis (schisto, for short) is a major problem. More than 200 million people are currently infected by the parasite that causes schistosomiasis, and 280,000 people die from the disease each year, making it the leading parasitic killer after malaria. Schisto is just one of seven neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that infect more than 1 billion people around the world.
But those are just numbers. What is it really like to live with schistosomiasis, to live in constant threat of infection and re-infection? And what is it like to have that burden lifted with a simple and affordable intervention?
“In the Rough,” a new short film by the END7 Campaign helps to answer those questions. Produced by filmmaker Mo Scarpelli, the film explores what life is like in Kono District, Sierra Leone, an area that supplied most of the country’s “conflict diamonds” during its bloody civil war, and which has some of Sierra Leone’s highest rates of schisto. It follows Sahr Gando, an independent diamond miner and farmer living in Kono District, who, like many of his fellow miners and community members, suffered from severe schisto. Before receiving treatment, Sahr Gando was unable to do his normal work or take care of his family.
Schisto doesn’t only affect people living in poverty, it perpetuates poverty by preventing people from working, going to school and supporting their families and communities.
Luckily there is a solution. Another dynamic individual featured in the film is Susan Mathews, a community health worker in the village of Boroma. Along with other health workers in Kono District, Susan is helping to educate and treat people living in her village as part of a larger effort to stop transmission of schistosomiasis for good.
“In the Rough” showcases the powerful story of a community that is fighting a little-known, but devastating disease. While you need to watch the film to get the full story, here’s a spoiler: this community and others like it in Sierra Leone, working with partners like Helen Keller International, USAID, the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and END7, is making remarkable progress in the fight against schisto and other NTDs. Sierra Leone is on that path to eliminating major NTDs in the next few years and setting an amazing example for other countries to follow. Another spoiler: the ending will be one of the happiest parts of your day.