Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GAELF)

Partnership objectives

  1. To interrupt transmission of infection of Lymphatic Filariasis (LF).
  2. To alleviate and prevent the suffering and disability produced by the disease.
  3. Eliminate LF as a public health problem by 2020 and to reduce the suffering of those already affected.

Mass drug administration for people living in endemic areas is recommended by WHO once a year for at least five years to break the cycle of transmission. Mass drug administration for people living in endemic areas is recommended by WHO once a year for at least five years to break the cycle of transmission. Copyright GSK

What are the health needs and challenges?

Lymphatic filariasis (LF), or elephantiasis as it is commonly known, is a mosquito-spread infectious disease that affects 120 million people in more than 50 countries worldwide. Another 947 million people are at risk of infection.

Found in the tropical and sub-tropical areas of Africa, Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East and the Americas, LF is one of the world’s leading causes of disability. It is characterised by severe swelling of the legs and arms and skin infections, and many people affected are unable to work and therefore forced into a life of poverty.

Description of partnership activities and how they address needs and challenges

The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GAELF) was created to eliminate one of the world's leading causes of disability and disfigurement as a public health problem by the year 2020. An estimated 120 million people suffer from the disease, and nearly one billion are at risk of infection. The project involves National Ministries of Health of the endemic countries.

Initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and GlaxoSmithKline in 1998, the Global Alliance has evolved into a global partnership between international organizations in the public and private sectors, academia and non-governmental organizations working in partnership with ministries of health in tropical countries where lymphatic filariasis (LF) is endemic. MSD joined the elimination effort in 1998, when it widened the scope of the Mectizan® (ivermectin) Donation Program to include LF in African countries where river blindness and LF co-exist.

The WHO recommends that lymphatic filariasis be prevented with a combination of albendazole (donated by GSK) with either DEC or Mectizan® (donated by MSD). Mass drug administration for people living in endemic areas is recommended by WHO once a year for at least five years to break the cycle of transmission.

In order to ensure that LF elimination programs use resources effectively, the Global Program places great emphasis on integration with other public health programs. Linkages are pursued with programs that use similar strategies – such as bed nets for malaria control, and drugs for controlling intestinal parasites, schistosomiasis and river blindness.

Additionally, Non-Governmental Development Organizations complement the efforts of the national Ministries of Health in implementing different components of the programs within their specific competence and scope.

Lessons learned

  • Partnership:  Partnership is essential for implementation, resource mobilization, planning, education, patient care and community mobilization
  • Mutual benefit:  The most sustainable programs are those where there is mutual benefit for both donor and recipient
  • Core skills:  Companies should use their core skills and strengths to play an active role in partnerships from core products and services through to management expertise for strategic planning, logistics and communications
  • Measurement:  It is important to collect baseline data and measuring impact year on year
  • Efficiencies:  Tackling issues in an integrated way opens up new efficiencies and broadens the reach of other programs

Summary of impact and forward looking information

Mass-drug administration with albendazole plus either DEC or MECTIZAN has been initiated in at least 66 countries. Because of these treatments, transmission of LF has been halted and 10 countries were acknowledged as achieving elimination of LF as a public health problem. 11 additional countries have successfully implemented recommended strategies, stopped large-scale treatment and are under surveillance to demonstrate that elimination has been achieved. 68 countries have completed mapping of LF endemic areas. The WHO has set the target of eliminating transmission of LF globally by the year 2020.

GSK has donated more than 7 billion tablets of anti-parasitic medicine, albendazole, to help prevent LF transmission in 65 countries and has committed to donating as much albendazole as needed to the WHO each year until LF is eliminated globally. GSK has also provided grants and other support for the Alliance’s fundraising, advocacy, communications and technical assistance efforts.

The 2014 WHO reports that from 2000 to 2016, 6.7 billion preventive treatments were delivered to more than 850 million people. 

*MSD is known as Merck in the U.S. and Canada.


Living with Lymphatic Filariasis

The Albendazole Donation Program

Partnership information

Company(ies) Eisai , GlaxoSmithKline , Johnson & Johnson , MSD , Sanofi

Partner(s) Alere, Amaury Coutihno, Brazil, Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, Australian Agency for International Development (AUSAID), Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Carter Center, Case Western Reserve University, Catholic Medical Mission Board, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Centre for Health Research and Development, Danish Bilharziasis Laboratory (DBL), Centre for Neglected Tropical Diseases, Christoffel Blindenmission (Germany), Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, Handicap International, Health and Development International, Norway, Helen Keller International, Indian Council of Medical Research, Interchurch Medical Assistance, USA, International Foundation for Dermatology, International Skin Care Nursing Group, International Volunteers in Urology, Izumi Foundation, James Cook University, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, LEPRA, Lymphatic Filariasis Support Center, Mectizan Donation Program, Michigan State University, Mission to Save the Helpless, Nigeria, Sightsavers International, Smith College, USA, Task Force for Global Health, UK Department for International Development (DFID), Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, University of Notre Dame, US Agency for International Development (USAID), Vector Control Research Centre (VCRC), India, Washington University in St Louis, USA, World Bank, World Health Organization (WHO)

Type of Partner(s) Academia / Hospitals, Government, IGOs, NGOs, Other Business, PDPs

Therapeutic Focus Neglected Tropical Diseases

Disease(s) Lymphatic Filariasis

Program Type(s) Availability of Treatment - Product Donations, Health System Infrastructure - Training, Prevention Programs - Mass Drug Administrations (MDA)

Targeted Population(s) Children, Elderly, Marginalised / Indigenous People, Men, Mothers, People with low income, Women, Youth

Region(s) East Asia & Pacific, Latin America & Caribbean, Middle East & North Africa, South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa

Number of Countries 70

Country(ies) Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Cook Islands, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Kiribati, Lao PDR, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Micronesia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Tanzania, Thailand, The Gambia, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Start Date 1998

More information GAELF website

Anticipated completion date Ongoing

« Twenty-five years after the donation of Mectizan, we are now close to eliminating river blindness from the Western Hemisphere. »

Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director General