The Economist Intelligence Unit reports on the overwhelming socio-economic gains of eliminating schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis.

02 Oct 2020

In this report published by the Economist Intelligence Unit and The End Fund the economic gains made from eliminating morbidity and mortality due to schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STHs) 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 EIU modelled the economic impact of eliminating morbidity and mortality due to schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis by 2030 and preventing their resurgence, compared with a scenario where efforts to combat them stagnate, and cases increase with population growth. They focused on four sub-Saharan African countries—Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Zimbabwe.

Their 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. Their 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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