Infectious diseases – diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites – kill 14.9 million people every year, mainly in poor countries. That accounts for 26% of TOTAL deaths – from all causes. Unfortunately, infectious diseases take the largest toll in poor countries, especially those in tropical zones such as sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. Diseases that are almost eradicated in many countries, such as malaria, affect hundreds of millions of people every year, and force families deeper into poverty.
Infectious Diseases and Poverty
One of the problems with trying to curb the effects of infectious diseases in poor countries is that many of the poor are not in good health to begin with. Infectious diseases spread like wildfire in these areas – lack of clean water or sanitation, malnutrition, and reduced access to medication all have a hand in creating an environment in which infectious diseases thrive. Examples of this are evident. Many poor countries are situated in tropical zones, which increase malaria infection rates. Tuberculosis occurs more frequently in badly ventilated and crowded areas. Diarrhea is primarily caused by unclean drinking water.
Malaria – a disease spread by mosquitoes in the tropics – infects around 425 million people every year. Of those infected, approximately 1.2 million die. The relationship between malaria and poverty is also clear – those countries that have the highest malaria rates are also some of the world’s poorest nations. Fifty-eight percent of all malaria cases occur in the poorest 20% of the population.
However, problems still exist in combating malaria. Some types of malaria strains have become resistant to common drugs – these drugs are no longer effective. Chloroquine, which has long been used as malaria medication in malaria hotspots such as Africa and Southeast Asia, has become very inefficient in treating many malaria cases. A relatively new type of anti-malaria drug has been introduced, but while it is proven to be successful in 90% of cases, it is hard to obtain in many poor countries. The Global Fund’s financing of 264 million doses of malaria medication is helping to alleviate this problem, however – every dose is based on the new drug.
While tuberculosis does not affect as many people each year as malaria, it has a much higher mortality rate than malaria, and an estimated 1.6 million people die from ‘TB’ every year. Over 1/3 of the world’s populace is infected with the TB bacterium, but only about nine million or so of these people develop the TB illness each year. This illness usually affects the lungs, but different forms of TB can affect almost any area of the body. Unfortunately, if left untreated, 50% of those who contract the TB illness die.
While more expensive than drugs for malaria, drugs exist to treat TB. Current TB drugs and treatment have a 95% success rate, and cost around $10 per person in developing nations. This treatment, combined with an international TB prevention program known as DOTS – which works to raise political awareness, identify, and treat TB – is the leading global strategy to combat TB. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria is working to cure three million cases of TB through the DOTS strategy. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is another major supporter of the DOTS plan, and also helps fund TB vaccine developments.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria
Diarrhea is an intestinal disorder that can be caused by a number of individual diseases. It affects primarily young children, especially those without proper nutrition or a weakened immune system (common features in children of impoverished families). Every year, an estimated four billion people have cases of diarrhea (though most diarrhea cases last only a few days), and 1.8 million die. Most of theses deaths occur among children less than five years old – a terrible loss for future generations in developing countries.
Due to the simplicity of treatment, diarrhea programs have seen a lot of success in recent years – an estimated one million children are saved each year by use of ORTs. In 45 countries, UNICEF has conducted programs to treat 80% of child diarrhea cases, and other organizations such as the Rehydration Project work with governments to spread awareness of diarrhea and its treatment. They concentrate on training health workers to deal with diarrhea cases effectively and on ensuring that families experiencing diarrhea cases know the proper procedure for administering ORT.
Other Infectious Diseases
Infectious diseases encompass a huge number of illnesses – many more than can be discussed here. And though almost all can be treated successfully in developed countries, the lack of adequate health care in the developed world makes them a huge problem. However, foundations such as the Gates Foundation have made infectious diseases a top priority. Campaigns such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria are also doing their part to increase awareness of infectious diseases and halt their spread. The U.N. Millennium Development Goals includes references to infectious diseases such as malaria. Even the United States announced a renewed fight against malaria across the globe in 2001.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 2005.
Copyright © 2006 ThinkQuest Team 00282