Neglected Tropical Diseases:

CBM Advances the Treatment of Elephantiasis in the DR Congo

Drug distributors on their way through the community in remote villages in the DR Congo.

CBM's treatment strategies, training programmes and impact in the fight against neglected tropical disease Lymphatic Filariasis (elephantiasis) in the DR Congo.

CBM has made significant progress in improving the quality of life of people with lymphoedema in Central Kasai in the DR Congo. Lymphoedema is a complication of the neglected tropical disease (NTD) lymphatic filariasis, also known as elephantiasis.

Dr Safari Mwandulo, NTD Coordinator at CBM DRC, says: "Our experience with patients in Kasai Central, applying drug treatment and disease management with simple hygiene measures, has led to spectacular results and significantly improved the quality of life of many people."

Lymphatic filariasis, which affects almost 15 million people worldwide, mainly women, often results in diminished functionality of the limbs. Additionally, it can also cause psychological distress for those affected and lead to social exclusion. In 2017, the National Programme to Combat NTDs in the DRC reported 8,335 cases of lymphatic filariasis.

Since 2015, CBM has been a key player in the national NTD-CTP programme, contributing to the progress in the elimination of lymphatic filariasis. The organisation's efforts include the annual training of health workers and communities in the management of elephantiasis and the prevention of disabilities associated with this disease.

Management of patients

The management of morbidity and prevention of disability from lymphatic filariasis requires a comprehensive strategy that includes both secondary and tertiary prevention. Secondary prevention, such as basic skin care, and tertiary prevention, including psychological support and socio-economic assistance. Simple but effective hygiene measures such as regular washing and drying of affected limbs, physical exercise and careful wound care have shown remarkable results in treating the disease.

The CBM partnership with the End Fund under the project "Elimination of the 5 Preventive Chemotherapy (PCT) NTDs in DRC", launched in 2017, aims to address NTDS as a public health problem. In collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health's "National Programme to Combat NTDs Requiring Preventive Chemotherapy", the project has reached over 30 million beneficiaries in 2022 alone, setting an important milestone in the fight against neglected tropical diseases.

The case of Mrs Mujinga, a mother of three and beneficiary of the project


"The story of my illness dates back four years (2019) when I was pregnant with my second child. During that time, both my legs were getting thicker, which I attributed to pregnancy-related oedema, hoping it would go away after the birth. Strangely, I began to feel severe itching on my swollen limbs, and then I noticed sores caused by scratching that would not heal. My legs grew bigger and bigger and gave off an unbearable odour to the people around me.

The cause of my illness was attributed to fetishes and I was considered a witch by the community, so I was isolated and disowned by my husband. I then moved back to my parents home. I consulted traditional healers and revivalist churches without finding a solution to my illness until one day I was visited by a community distributor. The distributor took me to the health centre where I was trained on how to manage my illness and given a kit to treat elephantiasis.

Since then, I have been monitored by the health centre through the provincial NTD control coordination. Today, I can testify that I am very happy and very grateful for the psychological and medical support that the health centre has given me, and I can walk without difficulty. My feet are still swollen, but the wounds have healed. They no longer smell and have become very clean and supple. I can go to the market to run my small business, attend the various important meetings in my community and my marriage has been restored. We have already had our third child, who is now 7 months old.

I am committed to supporting the health centre to help other people affected by tropical diseases in my community. I am in contact with the nurse in charge of our health centre to participate in educational activities about the fight against tropical diseases that are rampant in our community and to distribute medicines to fight NTDs," she narrated.