Why it Matters
There is a group of infectious diseases that many people living in developed countries rarely encounter or hear about. These are neglected tropical diseases and are often referred to as diseases of poverty.
They include trachoma, river blindness, intestinal worms and other debilitating, painful, and sometimes deadly illnesses. According to the World Health Organization, these diseases infect one in seven people, including 875 million children, and are responsible for more than 500,000 deaths each year.
Neglected tropical diseases are directly linked to continuing cycles of poverty. They can result in blindness, chronic pain, severe disability and malnutrition, keeping children from attending school and adults from being able to work, severely limiting economic productivity in some of the poorest communities in the world.
Since the 1950s, Helen Keller International has supported the control and treatment of trachoma in Africa. To date we have helped deliver tens of thousands of sight-saving trachoma surgeries in poor communities and will continue working toward the global trachoma elimination date of 2020.
We have helped develop an effective and efficient platform that reaches tens of millions of people across Africa each year for the prevention and treatment of river blindness.
As young children are especially vulnerable to infection, we help developing countries effectively and efficiently provide deworming medication and health education for children in at-risk communities.
Working with national governments in countries with the highest rates of affliction, we are helping communities not only eliminate this devastating disease, but treat those suffering from physical disabilities caused by the infection.
Schistosomiasis, commonly known as snail fever, impacts nearly 261 million people, causing potential organ damage and poor health.