Open Access Open Badges Research

Mapping the capacities of fixed health facilities to cover people at risk of gambiense human African trypanosomiasis

Pere P Simarro1*, Giuliano Cecchi2, José R Franco1, Massimo Paone3, Abdoulaye Diarra4, José A Ruiz-Postigo5, Raffaele C Mattioli3 and Jean G Jannin1

Author Affiliations

1 World Health Organization, Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases, Innovative and Intensified Disease Management, Geneva, Switzerland

2 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Sub-regional Office for Eastern Africa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

3 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Animal Production and Health Division, Rome, Italy

4 World Health Organization, Regional Office for Africa, Intercountry Support Team, Libreville, Gabon

5 World Health Organization, Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, Communicable Disease Control, Neglected Tropical Diseases, Cairo, Egypt

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International Journal of Health Geographics 2014, 13:4  doi:10.1186/1476-072X-13-4

Published: 11 February 2014



The emphasis placed on the activities of mobile teams in the detection of gambiense human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) can at times obscure the major role played by fixed health facilities in HAT control and surveillance. The lack of consistent and detailed data on the coverage of passive case-finding and treatment further constrains our ability to appreciate the full contribution of the health system to the control of HAT.


A survey was made of all fixed health facilities that are active in the control and surveillance of gambiense HAT. Information on their diagnostic and treatment capabilities was collected, reviewed and harmonized. Health facilities were geo-referenced. Time-cost distance analysis was conducted to estimate physical accessibility and the potential coverage of the population at-risk of gambiense HAT.


Information provided by the National Sleeping Sickness Control Programmes revealed the existence of 632 fixed health facilities that are active in the control and surveillance of gambiense HAT in endemic countries having reported cases or having conducted active screening activities during the period 2000-2012. Different types of diagnosis (clinical, serological, parasitological and disease staging) are available from 622 facilities. Treatment with pentamidine for first-stage disease is provided by 495 health facilities, while for second-stage disease various types of treatment are available in 206 health facilities only. Over 80% of the population at-risk for gambiense HAT lives within 5-hour travel of a fixed health facility offering diagnosis and treatment for the disease.


Fixed health facilities have played a crucial role in the diagnosis, treatment and coverage of at-risk-population for gambiense HAT. As the number of reported cases continues to dwindle, their role will become increasingly important for the prospects of disease elimination. Future updates of the database here presented will regularly provide evidence to inform and monitor a rational deployment of control and surveillance efforts. Support to the development and, if successful, the implementation of new control tools (e.g. new diagnostics and new drugs) is crucial, both for strengthening and expanding the existing network of fixed health facilities by improving access to diagnosis and treatment and for securing a sustainable control and surveillance of gambiense HAT.