Water, Sanitation & Hygiene Interventions to Fight Schistosomiasis

Fighting schistosomiasis by supporting water, sanitation and hygiene interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa as part of our integrated approach to eliminate the disease


Schistosomiasis is a chronic condition and one of the most common and most devastating parasitic diseases in tropical countries. It is estimated that almost 240 million people are infected worldwide and that around up to 200,000 die from it every year. It is especially widespread in regions in Sub-Saharan Africa where populations, not having access to clean water and sanitary installations, get in contact with fresh contaminated water sources.

Ensuring access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is therefore critical for the control and elimination of schistosomiasis, as well as of other water-borne neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

Our Engagement

In the fight against schistosomiasis, our company is investing in projects and initiatives which aim to eliminate this disease as a public health problem by 2030.

We have adopted an integrated schistosomiasis strategy that we are implementing in close collaboration with multiple partners worldwide and that focuses on provision of treatments, research and development of new drugs and diagnostics, building strong partnerships, and supporting health education and WASH initiatives.

By addressing the challenges of access to safe water, functioning sanitation facilities and good hygiene behaviors, we support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We are improving the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all (SDG6). With this and our concerted actions, we contribute to the overarching goal of ending schistosomiasis and thereby promoting healthy lives and well-being for all at all ages (SDG3).  

Johannes Waltz Johannes Waltz

We provide up to 250 million tablets per year for the treatment of schistosomiasis and develop new drugs and diagnostic tools. Additional investments in health education and WASH are essential to achieve elimination of schistosomiasis. We are working with strong partners with longstanding expertise in these areas.

Johannes Waltz

Head of Schistosomiasis Elimination Program at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

Our activities

Partnering with NALA Foundation in Ethiopia

The aim of our partnership with the NALA Foundation is to support and collaborate on the implementation of intersectoral approaches  to reach elimination of schistosomiasis and other NTDs.
By integrating health education and WASH, we strive to enact behavior change by providing the knowledge on the transmission and prevention of the disease and building the WASH infrastructure to apply best hygiene, and sanitation practices to prevent re-infection. Through intensive trainings, strong community engagement and ownership, the interventions are tailored to the local cultural context and needs. The objective is to achieve sustainable impact by reducing disease prevalence by 80% in all schistosomiasis-endemic districts, and develop a proven model adopted by the Ethiopian government for further scale-up.
Results so far show a meaningful decrease of the prevalence of schistosomiasis and other NTDs, indicating a positive impact on the reduction of transmission. The 5-year partnership with the NALA Foundation introduces evidence-based practices, next to treatment, and will build the necessary capacity for the local government and communities to own health education/WASH interventions.   These actions contribute to further promote and enact behavior change to achieve schistosomiasis elimination.

“The partnership initiated with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, in 2017 has encouraged the creation of innovative approaches for maximum impact. Partnerships at the community, district, and zonal level is what leads NALA's activities, with the needs and wants of the community always the first priority. Our collaboration with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has allowed us to lend a listening ear and address the emerging needs and opportunities of our partners on the ground.”

Michal Bruck, CEO NALA Foundation

Who is our champion?

“Treatment, WASH and health education are key interventions to move sustainably towards elimination of schistosomiasis. This is why we are collaborating with the NALA Foundation since 2017 on a project in Southwest of Ethiopia, considered a hot spot for NTDs – where we have been implementing school-, community- and WASH-based interventions. I am personally very proud of this collaboration that contributes achieving substantial positive impact in the communities affected by schistosomiasis.”

Willemijn Zaadnoordijk – Program Manager, Tablet Donation Program at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

Willemijn Zaadnoordijk manages the tablet donation program and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene/health education partnership in close collaboration with the World Health Organization, and its implementing partners. Prior to joining our company in 2008, she held various positions at the United Nations, and brings her expertise in international relations, program management, and partnership building. She holds a master’s degree in International Relations and Diplomacy and master’s degree in Human Resources Development.