Impact of NTDs
NTDs are disabling and debilitating chronic conditions that keep children out of school, keep adults from being able to work, and keep people who are already poor mired in a cycle of poverty. NTDs also are a major killer: over 170,000 people die annually from the consequences of NTDs.
Pain and Suffering
NTDs can cause ongoing pain and suffering. The swelling from advanced stages of lymphatic filariasis, or elephantiasis, can make it extremely difficult or impossible for adults to walk. The open lesions on their skin can be sources of constant pain and infection. The severe itching and burning from river blindness is constant. Headaches and eye pain from advanced stage blinding trachoma are incessant and severe.
NTDs are also stigmatizing diseases. The blinding and disfiguring effects of NTDs can ostracize individuals from their own communities, further hindering the ability to live happy and productive lives. Children are not able to play with their friends because they are ridiculed about their swollen bellies or swollen limbs. Adults are sometimes considered to be cursed and are outcast because of their deformities.
Obstacles to Growth
The devastating health impact of NTDs is just the beginning. Because of their chronic and disabling impact, NTDs create severe obstacles to gains in education, economic growth and overall development. For example, anemia caused by hookworm has been shown to significantly reduce both school performance and attendance in children. Intestinal worms that rob critical nutrients from children cause permanent stunting in height and weight, affecting children’s memory and ability to learn. Recent studies have shown that reduced school attendance due to NTDs affects future wage-earning capacity by up to 43%. And blinding trachoma has been shown to cause over $5 billion in worldwide economic losses annually.