As an undergraduate student in my final year I was introduced to some neglected tropical diseases, for me it was the beginning of a path I would end up extremely passionate about. A path that would lead me to my master’s degree and a dive into some of the most debilitating diseases that are rarely talked about.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines neglected tropical diseases as communicable diseases that are prevalent across the tropics and sub-tropics in 149 countries. These diseases affect around 1 billion people and primarily affect those living in poverty and substandard sanitation environments. These diseases range from snakebites to schistosomiasis (a disease contracted through a worm that is more prominent in poor hygienic conditions). For most people, when talking about diseases in Africa, their immediate assumption is towards malaria; whilst malaria is an extremely debilitating disease that has led to an estimated 219 million cases, it is not the only transmittable disease.
The WHO is advocating for implementation of effective control methods for these diseases, but with a blatant lack of awareness across the board, there is minimal hope that their methods will prove effective by 2020.
As members of the diaspora, it is easy for us to assume that these diseases will never affect us, or for us to lack an understanding of the conditions that other people are living in. However, as we move into a migrating society, and as we begin to understand the impact we want to make in the world, I believe there is importance in recognizing these diseases and de-stigmatizing our reactions to them.
Tsetste flies in rural areas spread diseases like trypanosomiasis; they inject trypanosomes into the bloodstream that as able to cross the blood brain barrier. Individuals can be infected for months with no symptoms, however more extreme versions of the disease can be quite rapid. This disease causes African Sleeping sickness, with over 70% of the cases being present in the DRC. Disease
such as this causes an astronomical impact not only on people but on animals which influence agriculture and peoples earnings. Knowledge and control of this disease could be life changing.
I have listed all neglected diseased below - Google them, learn what their symptoms may look like and recognise the effect that a lack of knowledge can have on these communities. Understand the impact that your knowledge can have i.e. one day you may return home, recognise it and save someone's life. It is important that we advocate for greater awareness of NTDs in order to help
improve people's lives.
African Sleeping Sickness
Taeniasis and Cysticercosis
Ramota Adelakun is a Biological Sciences graduate and current master’s student studying Tropical Disease Biology. She is a proud Nigerian. She is a Global Health
advocate and believes in advocating for the change you want to see in the world.
She hopes to become an infectious disease epidemiologist and show that Black
British women can have a significant impact. In her free time she watches
excessive amounts of TV and runs her own blog/Youtube channel.
Picture reference: Molyneux, David & Hotez, Peter & Fenwick, Alan. (2005). “Rapid-Impact Interventions”: How a Policy of Integrated Control for Africa's Neglected Tropical Diseases Could Benefit the Poor. PLoS medicine. 2. e336. 10.1371/journal.pmed.0020336.