Dr Anders Seim was inspired by efforts at the Carter Center and decided to devote himself to this cause. He founded Health & Development International (HDI), registered in Massachusetts, USA, and Norway. Dr Seim has since worked for the World Health Organization in Geneva, but is back in Norway, engaged full time in HDI’s efforts to eradicate guinea worm, eliminate lymphatic filariasis (“elephantiasis”), and stop women from dying or getting obstetric fistula as a consequence of giving birth.
HDI remains a small non-governmental organization, concentrating on diseases deemed to be eradicable or that can be eliminated. Where simple interventions are at hand but insufficiently implemented, HDI’s aim has always been to advance world public health, strengthen economic development, and augment human dignity among some of the world’s most unfortunate people by helping to permanently free them of specific diseases.
HDI’s distinctive characteristic is the combination of catalytic functions with the use of modest funds to open bottlenecks.
HDI gives special emphasis to the development of “south-south collaboration” and regional networking of programs and activities.
A solid track record at low cost
In guinea worm eradication, HDI has mobilized support from big business and governments in North America and Europe since 1990. We introduced rewards to help find the last cases—a tool used in almost all endemic countries as one after the other freed its people from the scourge that is Guinea worm disease. And HDI has provided field advisers or operations-support at critical times when others could not.
In 1997, HDI initiated and co-sponsored a “Global Policy Retreat” where major directions for lymphatic filariasis (causes elephantiasis) elimination were charted.
To again stimulate clear thinking on a complicated issue, HDI convened a defining workshop on drug distribution two years later. We developed a popular advocacy brochure with WHO and stimulated early inclusion of French speaking African countries in the program. At country level, HDI has particularly supported Ghana and Togo in the area of lymphatic filariasis (LF) elimination, encouraging collaboration across their border. HDI helped Togo from start to finish until WHO verified Togo as the first country in Africa to have eliminated LF. As Ghana’s program grew, financing of it was taken over by World Bank and the United Kingdom.
HDI initiated and ran the West African LF Morbidity Project under which surgeons in 12 countries were introduced to improved techniques for surgery on men with accumulation of fluid in the scrotum as a result of LF. This project then taught teachers of surgery in East Africa, who then disseminated the information further there. The surgical technique which this project brought from Recife in Brazil to Africa has since become the WHO-Recommended procedure.
Since 2004, HDI has been working to introduce a community-based system to prevent deaths during childbirth and prevent obstetric fistula afterward for survivors of obstructed labor. A UNFPA- (United Nations Population Fund), CDC- (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), HDI-sponsored global policy meeting in 2005 broadly endorsed HDI’s proposed approach. And in December 2007, HDI launched the world’s first community-based program for rapid prevention of obstructed labor deaths and obstetric fistulas as a pilot project in Bankilare, Niger.
The success of that pilot project led to its expansion to an area 120 sq. miles larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined in USA. As women stopped dying of much else as they gave birth in that expanded pilot area, we in 2010 also set out to prevent women from bleeding to death when they give birth. And the success of that work, combined with additional knowledge we gained in October 2012 led Niger’s Ministry of Health to embark upon it nationwide Initiative to Prevent Women From Bleeding to Death When They Give Birth. (More information elsewhere on the website.)