Breaking the cycle of neglect - Reducing the burden of parasitic worms in sub-Saharan Africa

02 Oct 2020

The Economist Intelligence Unit & The End Fund launch "BREAKING THE CYCLE OF NEGLECT: REDUCING THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIETAL BURDEN OF PARASITIC WORMS IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA"

Executive Summary

Neglected tropical diseases cause an annual loss of 17 million healthy life years globally, with 40% of these lost in sub-Saharan Africa

  • Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a heterogeneous group of mostly infectious diseases that largely affect poor individuals living in low- and middle-income countries. The World Health Organisation (WHO) report that globally over 1.76bn people still require interventions against NTDs. Over a quarter of those affected live in sub-Saharan Africa. Schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis are the most prevalent neglected tropical diseases in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The majority (86%) of global schistosomiasis cases occur in subSaharan Africa, and 26% of soil-transmitted helminthiasis cases. The two diseases caused a loss of about 2.1m healthy life years in 2017. The ill health caused by these diseases hampers adults’ ability to work, and could adversely impact children’s schooling. Eliminating morbidity and mortality from schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Zimbabwe by 2030 could boost these countries’ GDP by US$5.1bn in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms by 2040
  • The most recent WHO roadmap for neglected tropical diseases sets targets for the elimination of both schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis as public health problems by 2030. Once this is achieved, the countries will need to eliminate transmission to stop these diseases returning.
  • The EIU has modelled the economic impact eliminating morbidity and mortality from these diseases by 2030 and preventing their resurgence, compared with a scenario where efforts to combat them stagnate, and cases increase with population growth. We focus on four sub-Saharan African countries—Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Zimbabwe.
  • Our analysis finds that this could boost productivity by US$5.1bn (PPP) between 2021 and 2040 across Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. The greatest potential gains are seen in Ethiopia at US$3.2bn, followed by Kenya (US$1.3bn), Rwanda (US$0.4bn), and Zimbabwe (US$0.3bn; all figures at PPP).
  • In addition, eliminating the ill health associated with these parasitic worms among school-age children in these countries could improve their ability to learn and attend school. Our estimates suggest that this could potentially benefit these children by US$1.2bn (PPP) in extra wages between 2021 and 2040 once they enter the workforce. Continued multi-sectoral action is needed to successfully eliminate these diseases
  • Achieving these targets will require concerted action, including better disease mapping data, tailoring to the local context, integration with wider public health efforts and programmes to improve sanitation.
  • Progress towards the targets could be threatened, particularly as the covid-19 pandemic heaps pressure on health systems and economies. As countries approach elimination and case numbers drop, it is also important to maintain momentum to ensure sustainable elimination of these diseases.

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