The neglected diseases of poverty

Published May 11, 2014 · Estimated reading time: 4 minutes · Share your thoughts
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*Originally published in The Upstream Journal.

The last week of April is World Immunization Week, promoting vaccines as powerful tools for protecting people against some of the most deadly diseases. However, there are no effective vaccines for many of what are called “Neglected Tropical Diseases” – NTDs. And where there are few vaccines and treatments available, people remain trapped in a cycle of poverty and disease.

NTDs include seventeen parasitic, bacterial and viral infections that infect more than a billion people across the world. They include diseases such as leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, dengue and sleeping sickness.

Despite the name ‘tropical’ the NTDs thrive far beyond the tropics and represent a great health burden worldwide. These preventable “diseases of poverty” primarily affect the world’s poorest people and can cause severe lifelong disabilities such as blindness, deformities, and debilitation. However, the devastating impact of these diseases is often overshadowed by the “big three” – HIV, tuberculosis and malaria – leaving them neglected in discussions of global health, investment, and research.

Velayuthan pillai (Age 69), a tailor. Elephantiasis turned his life into misery by taking away both his legs. Having lost his legs and job, he returned back to his home town and joined as a guard for a temple for the pay of (Rupess 800) 17.60$ per month. With the help of this little income he's struggling to make both ends in life along with his wife." Photo by Rajvinoth Jothineelakandan.

Velayuthan pillai (Age 69), a tailor. Elephantiasis turned his life into misery by taking away both his legs. Having lost his legs and job, he returned back to his home town and joined as a guard for a temple for the pay of (Rupess 800) 17.60$ per month. With the help of this little income he’s struggling to make both ends in life along with his wife.” Photo by Rajvinoth Jothineelakandan.

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