News / Health

Neglected Diseases Afflict South Asia's Poor

Vidushi Sinha

At a time when economists predict that South Asia's economy will grow, health experts point to hundreds of millions suffering from neglected infections, often as a result of poverty.  In a series of new studies, researchers say many countries in South Asia bear a disproportionate burden of these diseases and have a need for new drugs and vaccines.

Health experts say many tropical diseases that are mostly associated with sub-Saharan Africa have long been a neglected burden in South Asia as well.  New research shows about 1.5 billion people in South Asia suffer from severe debilitating parasitic and bacterial infections.

Peter Hotez is dean of the U.S. National School of Tropical Medicine. He says poverty is the primary factor that makes people susceptible to these diseases.  And because they are usually not fatal, he adds, there is no sense of urgency to combat them, and they have been easy for the world to ignore.

"Nobody is really dying from elephantiasis or lymphatic filariais and this is why it has been so hard to get these diseases the attention of global health policy makers," said Hotez.  "It's tens of millions of people being disfigured, being disabled, being too sick to go to work every day.  They do everything but kill and that's a difficult message sometimes to convey."

Hotez is the author of one of the recent studies.  He says one quarter of the world's intestinal parasitic infections occur in India and the rest of South Asia.  Filariasis, Kala-azar, and leprosy are also widespread.  He says these are the most common diseases that strike the poorest of the poor.

"You might have heard the term the bottom billion, the one billion people in the world who live on no money," added Hotez. "Well, it turns out that a large proportion of them live in India and South Asia and these are the diseases that are trapping that bottom billion in poverty."

Although some of these diseases can be treated with relatively simple immunization campaigns, treatments for others are expensive and complicated.  These infections also have a tendency to recur.

Amanda Glassman is the Director for Global Health at the Center for Global Development, a public policy research institute.  She says the new studies should prompt governments to give diseases of the poor a higher priority.

"I hope that it galvanizes policy makers to pay more attention to those diseases when they are thinking about what should be funded with public monies and how those very inexpensive but effective treatments that exist can reach people in need," said Glassman.

Experts urge Indian pharmaceutical companies to take the lead and focus not just on developing drugs for diabetes, heart disease and cancer, but on innovative therapies for neglected tropical diseases, as well.

You May Like

Photogallery Pakistani Offensive Empties Largest Town in North Waziristan

Army commander says troops have found about a dozen bomb-making facilities, underground network of tunnels; troops must clear huge amount of IEDs More

Video Israel, Hamas Trade Blame, Dig in

Both sides blame each other for provoking conflict, neither side at this point is ready to back down More

US: Cooperation with Germany Important Despite Spying Fallout

Refusing to comment on 'purported intelligence matter', White House spokeswoman says administration 'will continue to be in touch with German government in appropriate channels' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Restored Papyrus Swamps Can Help Fight Pollution, Conserve Wateri
X
Faiza Elmasry
July 10, 2014 5:18 PM
Papyrus is a light but strong reed that grows well in shallow, fresh water. The plant stood at the center of the ancient Egyptian civilization. It was used as paper and the reed's shape inspired the fluted columns of ancient Greece. Most of the papyrus swamps gradually disappeared from Egypt and other parts of Africa. As VOA's Faiza Elmasry discovered, though, restoring the papyrus swamps could hold the key to solve many of today’s problems, from pollution to water wars. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Restored Papyrus Swamps Can Help Fight Pollution, Conserve Water

Papyrus is a light but strong reed that grows well in shallow, fresh water. The plant stood at the center of the ancient Egyptian civilization. It was used as paper and the reed's shape inspired the fluted columns of ancient Greece. Most of the papyrus swamps gradually disappeared from Egypt and other parts of Africa. As VOA's Faiza Elmasry discovered, though, restoring the papyrus swamps could hold the key to solve many of today’s problems, from pollution to water wars. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Virginia Site Tests Drones for FAA Rules

Blacksburg, a college town in southwestern Virginia, is one of six locations chosen by the FAA - the Federal Aviation Administration - to test drones. Researchers are sending feedback to the FAA as the agency develops national drone regulations. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti traveled to the town to check what’s up in the air there.
Video

Video Israel, Hamas Trade Blame, Dig in

The military conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, continues to escalate. As VOA’s Brian Padden reports, both sides blame each other for provoking the conflict and neither side at this point is ready to back down.
Video

Video Civilians Fear Mideast Violence Could Turn Into Full-Scale War

Violence in the Middle East is escalating at a time when there are no new peace talks in sight. Israeli and Palestinian leaders have condemned the brutal deaths of three Israeli teenagers and one Palestinian teen, and have vowed to punish those responsible. But both sides also seem to be gearing up for more fighting. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video African-born Pastor Brings ‘Holy Laughter’ Revival to Washington

A South African-born televangelist based in Florida has brought his ministry to Washington for a three-week event he is calling “Celebrate America.” Rodney Howard-Browne is calling for a religious revival in the United States. But as VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports, his preaching style is far from mainstream.
Video

Video American Roadside Attraction 'Dinosaur Land' Lures Visitors

A big part of the American landscape of the middle 20th century was the roadside attraction - small zoos, amusement parks or quirky museums along the highways families traveled on their way to vacation destinations. Most of those attractions are gone, but one in Virginia, a couple of hours from Washington, called Dinosaur Land, is still going strong.
Video

Video Burma Football Friendly Brings Together Battlefield Opponents

As most of Myanmar’s ethnic armies maintain a fragile ceasefire with the government, some of the troops were able to let off a little steam, World Cup - style. Steve Sandford reports from Karen State, Myanmar, also known as Burma, on a peace initiative aimed at building trust between the opposing sides of one of the world’s longest-running conflicts.
Video

Video FIFA’s Football for Hope Tournament Kicks Off in Brazil

As excitement builds toward the final matches of football's (soccer's) World Cup, another competition has kicked-off in Brazil. The Football for Hope Festival brings together underprivileged young people from around the world for an event that is less about winning than about enjoying the game and one another. Scott Bobb reports from Rio de Janeiro.

AppleAndroid