Deadly but Treatable

The conditions collectively referred to as neglected tropical diseases affect billions of people worldwide, including half a billion children in the Global South; according to PLoS, some of these diseases are as easily found among Americans, particularly impoverished Americans, as in Nigeria. Philanthropic organizations are working to reduce the incidence of these conditions, which are usually exacerbated by poverty and poor infrastructure that hinders the delivery of heathcare in the developing world.

There is particular focus on the seven most common NTDs, which together account for over a billion cases:

  • Hookworm is contracted from walking barefoot on infested ground and affects 198 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. It is a leading cause of anemia in pregnant women and can lead to cognitive deficit in children.
  • Ascariasis, or roundworm, is a parasite found in contaminated water that affects 173 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, it is the most common parasitic worm in humans
  • Schistosomiasis is a worm infection acquired from freshwater snails with 166 million cases in sub-Saharan Africa. It has the highest mortality rate of the NTDs, though it is one of the easiest to treat.
  • Whipworm is a parasitic infection acquired from unwashed fruits and vegetables and contaminated soil that affects 162 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. Children are particularly prone to whipworm, and it can affect their growth if left uintreated.
  • Elephantiasis is a mosquito-borne parasite that affects 46 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. The selling associated with this illness can cause permanent disability.
  • Trachoma is a bacterial eye infection that affects 33 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and more than 84 million people worldwide. The world’s leading cause of preventable blindness, this disease thrives in impovrished rural areas with poor sanitation.
  • River blindness is a fly-borne parasitic worm disease that affects 18 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. It is the world’s fourth-leading cause of preventable blindness.

These conditions are common not because no treatment exists but because of the difficulty of getting the treatment—or any medical care—to the populations most vulnerable to it. The World Health Organization reports unprecedented efforts to fight these diseases, with $785 million spent on pursuing eradication, and millions more on treatment.

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