Neglected Tropical Diseases

As per the WHO definition, Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) are a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries – affect more than one billion people and cost developing economies billions of dollars every year. The diseases are most prevalent amongst poverty afflicted populations with little access to sanitation and hygiene facilities making them susceptible to the infectious vectors. The occurrence of NTDs causes further poverty as it impairs normal functioning of the body leading to reduced or no economic viability, and adding to healthcare costs.

More than 500 million people in India are at risk for one or more of the world’s five most prevalent NTDs: Lymphatic Filariasis (LF), Trachoma, and Soil transmitted Helminths (STHs) including Hookworm, Roundworm, and Whipworm.

Filariasis as an NTD in India

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Lymphatic filariasis or, filariasis as it is more commonly known, is an NTD that impairs the lymphatic system causing abnormal enlargement of body parts, causing severe social, economic and health problems. Caused by a mosquito-borne parasitic worm, that harbours inside human body and disrupts the lymphatic system, the NTD causes severe disfiguration. About 120 million people in Asia, Africa, Pacific islands and parts of South America and the Caribbean are estimated to be affected by the disease.

The disease which is caused by parasites Wuchereria bancrofti and Brugia malayi is endemic in 17 states and six UTs of India. The severity of this NTD can be gauged from the fact that the Government of India aims at eliminating it through mass chemotherapy programmes and the campaign has been a part of the National Vector-Borne Disease Control Programme in 2003 under the National Health Policy 2002. Though India has missed the target year of 2015 which was designated as the year by which India wanted to rid itself of the filariasis burden, the mission to eliminate the disease is still on.

GLRA’s role in solving the NTD problem in India

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GLRA-India has been actively involved in the fight against the disfiguring disease of filariasis since ___. GLRA-India approaches the filariasis problem through education and medical referrals. We believe, awareness and information about the disease, its prevention, and handling will go a long way in fighting this NTD. Also important is community awareness and health education to combat the severity of social stigma attached to the disease. Similarly, strengthening the healthcare system in areas susceptible to the disease ensure guidance and care to the community.

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The Integrated approaches for disability prevention due to leprosy and lymphatic filariasis (LF) is one of the projects started by GLRA to address the LF problem in district Purulia of West Bengal and Alapuzha in Kerala. Both the sites have co-endemicity in terms of leprosy and LF. Hence the beneficiaries for the project will include persons affected with leprosy and LF. The project outcomes include:

  • Referral center for providing out-patient services for leprosy and LF
  • Decentralized integrated prevention of disability (IPOD) camps for persons affected with leprosy and LF implemented at Panchayat-level
  • Improved public awareness and reduced stigma towards leprosy and LF
  • Increased capacity of the general healthcare system to provide quality services to persons affected with leprosy and lymphatic filariasis

The project which was started in 2018 has served over 500 individuals suffering from both leprosy and filariasis.