Ninety percent of people requiring treatment for schisto, short for schistosomiasis and also known as bilharzia or snail fever, live in Africa.

The parasite that causes schisto is released by freshwater snails, to which prawns are natural predators. Prawns need to eat the shells of the snails to build up their own hard exoskeletons.

And in order to tackle the disease, Projet Crevette is working to restore the natural prawn population in the lower Senegal river basin - the prawn population is close to extinction as it lost access to its saltwater breeding ground after the Diama dam was built in 1980.

Alassane Ndiaye is a Projet Crevette worker who plays an important role in trying to stop the deadly parasitic disease from spreading - this involves him taking urine samples, wrangling prawns, collecting snails and distributing pills.

Ndiaye has a long history of community involvement and is well-liked and trusted. He has been involved in community development since 1992, working on health projects as well as local language literacy and locals needs surveys.

Elizabeth Huttinger, the CEO of Projet Crevette, explains that Ndiaye's role is important because of his presence in the villagers' daily lives.

"In terms of tasks, Alassane does everything from monitoring the prawns to monitoring the children. He hires crews of teens to do maintenance work when required, to recruit the community's attendance for testing and treatment dates, and as the health relay."

Ndiaye's many responsibilities include enclosure maintenance, tracking prawn populations, as well as testing for schistosomiasis in the community, and providing treatment.

He also arranges transport to clinics and hospitals to make sure that children can receive their medication and vaccinations. This is especially important for children who may have missed treatment days at school, or who may not go to school all together.

"When anyone gets sick in the village and needs professional attention, Alassane is the first call," says Elizabeth.

Ndiaye is one of many health heroes on Lifelines: The Quest for Global Health.

Lifelines: The Quest for Global Health will air on Al Jazeera in 2014.

Source: Al Jazeera