Community Engagement in WASH & Health Education

Together with the NALA Foundation and the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia, we are developing community-based solutions to control and eliminate schistosomiasis.

Our Partner: The NALA Foundation

NALA stands for NTD Advocacy, Learning, Action and is an Israeli non-governmental organization that has been operating in Ethiopia since 2008. It takes a unique and, most importantly, community-based approach, mainly focusing on health education, WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) and treatments to achieve sustainable behaviour change and ultimately control and eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Their program is aimed at working together with community leaders, health workers and national health authorities to identify local challenges and develop tailored solutions to fit the social, cultural and environmental context. The organization has developed into a thriving institution that works on the ground in numerous communities and gives technical assistance to local authorities.

Read more about NALA

Creation of innovative approaches for maximum impact

An estimated 41.2 million people in Ethiopia are at risk of contracting schistosomiasis, including approximately 17 million children (2017).
In 2017, the Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany/NALA Foundation Partnership was formed in collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Ethiopia to control and eliminate schistosomiasis and other NTDs in the Bench Sheko & West Omo zones (previously Bench Maji zone) in South West Ethiopia. This region is known for being one of the toughest NTD hotspots. Special attention and implementation support has been given to areas in which the disease burden remains high despite regular mass drug administrations (MDA). Tailored, community-owned health education and WASH programs have been designed and implemented to reduce prevalence levels and move from control to elimination.     

Over 50% of school children were reported to suffer from one or more NTDs in 2014. The zones cover a total of 18 districts with an estimated population of over 900,000 in an area covering nearly 20,000 km². The infrastructure in this area is poorly developed and road access to rural communities is difficult during the rainy season, which lasts nine months of the year. During the short dry season, the mud is replaced by dust which chokes Mizan Aman's main trading routes. Farming and agriculture are the main sources of income and several languages are spoken in the zone, including Benchinya, Me’en, Amharic, and local tribal languages. The project zone was selected by the Ministry of Health as the intervention site for a pilot program to reduce the prevalence of schistosomiasis and other NTDs.

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In partnership with the NALA Foundation, the “Community Engagement, WASH/Health education Project for the control and elimination of Schistosomiasis and other NTDs as a Public Health Problem” also aims to reduce disease prevalence in all districts where schistosomiasis is endemic to create a proven success model.

The impact assessment has shown a significant reduction in the prevalence of Schistosomiasis. Based on the findings, the regional team note success in the strong partnership established with the Mizan Tepi University for research and report changes in the behavior of school children and their respective families as well as high levels of community involvement and effective collaboration with local government structures.

Our highlights in numbers

People impacted by this project : 490,573
Students reached: 212,211
Households reached: 25,629
Schools receiving interventions: 378
Community members received health education: 145,185


Over 240 million people suffer from the tropical disease schistosomiasis, with more than 200,000 dying each year as a result. Together with our partners we plan to eliminate this disease once and for all.