Africa's burden of infectious disease
Infectious diseases still represent the major cause of child deaths. Although in quite a few countries general conditions have improved, such a shift in the cause-of-death pattern has not occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria, lower respiratory infections and diarrhoeal diseases continue to be the leading causes of death in children, accounting for 53 per cent of all deaths. HIV/AIDS is now responsible for a little over 300,000 child deaths in sub-Saharan Africa and nearly seven per cent of all child deaths in the region.
Despite global trends of a declining burden of communicable disease in adults, HIV/AIDS challenges that progress. AIDS-related deaths are still the leading cause of mortality among adults aged 15–59, responsible for more than two million deaths annually or 13 per cent of global deaths in this age group. Most people with AIDS die because of tuberculosis.
Those living in absolute poverty (on less than 1 US dollar per day) are five times more likely to die before reaching the age of five, and two and a half times more likely to die between the ages of 15 and 59. Infectious and parasitic diseases account for 25% of the disease burden in low- and middle-income countries, compared to only 3% in high-income countries. Most of these diseases can be cured if effective treatment is available and accessible. People in developing countries, who make up about 80% of the global population, only represent about 20% of worldwide medicine sales. For these people, the imbalance between their needs and the availability of medicines is fatal.
When is a disease named 'neglected disease'?
About 1 billion people worldwide are affected by one or more neglected tropical diseases. They are named neglected because these diseases persist exclusively in the poorest and the most marginalized communities, and have been largely elminated and thus forgotten in wealthier places. The diseases thrive in places with unsafe water, poor sanitation, and limited access to basic health care. Despite the severe pain and life-long disabilities they cause, these diseases are often less visible and given a low priority alongside high mortality diseases.
A seriously disabling or life-threatening disease can be considered neglected when treatment options are inadequate or don't exist, when their drug-market potential is insufficient to readily attract a private sector response and when government response is also inadequate.
In short, for neglected diseases, there has been a failure of the market and a failure of public policy. Neglected diseases mainly affect people in developing countries.