TOGETHER AGAINST NEGLECTED TROPICAL DISEASES
Malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS are a few of the health calamities that afflict the populations of the global South.
Malaria in Africa is one of the top causes of death in children under five.
Every year malaria affects nearly 250 million people, of which almost one million die due to complications related to severe malaria; yet, malaria is curable with low-cost drugs.
Every year tuberculosis kills 1.7 million people and HIV/AIDS causes 2 million deaths, with the major part of infections in Subsaharan Africa, leaving over 17 million orphaned children and entire countries without a future.
Diarrhea and respiratory infections, both curable with common antibiotics, are still two of the major causes of illness and death.
Other diseases such as schistosomiasis, intestinal helminthiasis, lymphatic filariasis, leishmaniasis, and tripanosomiasis, are classified as “neglected tropical diseases”: they affect the most isolated communities in the world and they are one of the most fundamental causes of poverty. The lives of approximately 1 billion people are affected by one or more neglected tropical diseases, which weigh heavily on the development of affected countries. Often these diseases do not have high mortality rates and therefore do not attract universal attention; however, they represent a major burden for the affected populations not only due to the physical impairment, but also for the negative socio-economic impact they have. Actually, they reduce the productive capacity of adults and perpetuate the vicious cycle of poverty.
Schistosomiasis and intestinal helminthiasis affect children in particular, causing growth and mental impairment; however, the disabling consequences of these two diseases could be eliminated and many children could grow up healthy if treatment campaigns reached populations in the most remote areas.
A certain level of success has already been reached, but the treatment interventions should be intensified and the local government should be assisted more with the planning of healthcare campaigns. Effective drugs have been available on the market for years; the challenge is to make them accessible to the communities that live with this reality everyday. Pharmaceuticals, if used in mass campaigns, can prevent the long-term effects of these diseases; however, to prevent and eradicate infectious diseases, interventions must focus not only on curing the ill, but also on improving the infrastructure, environment, and the training of health care personnel. Training guarantees the sustainability of every health cooperation intervention and promotes an ever-more autonomous healthcare management.
Until a global movement redistributes available resources to the most vulnerable, it will be necessary to unite forces and work side-by-side with the affected communities. The containment, and eventually the elimination, of malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and neglected tropical diseases is a global challenge aimed at strengthening the poorest communities.
We need to act now: the health of millions of people can’t wait.