South Sudan's Forgotten People and Their Forgotten Diseases
Dr. Peter Hotez discusses neglected tropical diseases in South Sudan in a Huffington Post article.
"This week the community of tropical disease experts working in South Sudan is holding its collective breath over recent news of ethnic attacks, a potential for civil war, and the prospect that a public health tragedy could soon emerge in the region.
A landlocked country about the size of Texas but with a population density equivalent to Utah or Nevada, South Sudan is a sparsely settled, highly rural, and profoundly poor tropical developing nation. Such conditions of extreme poverty and hot climate create the perfect storm for tropical diseases to flourish. Indeed, almost all of the 17 major neglected tropical diseases currently recognized by the World Health Organization are found in South Sudan. Information from Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) and other published documents indicate that South Sudan hosts some of the world's highest concentrations of these diseases. More than two-thirds of the nation's population is either affected by blinding trachoma or at risk of infection, more than 40 percent of the population suffers from schistosomiasis in some areas, and lymphatic filariasis, a highly disfiguring condition, is hyperendemic in more than four states in South Sudan.
A key feature about the extraordinarily high rates of the neglected tropical diseases in South Sudan is the fact that they are chronic and disabling conditions, which actually cause poverty because of their ability to prevent people from going to work or reduce child development. They also have a particularly devastating effect on girls and women because of their ability to cause disfigurement and stigma. Today, the neglected tropical diseases may represent the most potent force trapping the people of South Sudan in a perpetual cycle of poverty."