Neglected tropical diseases killing thousands globally put 6 million at risk in war-torn Yemen

A Yemeni child receives a diphtheria vaccine at a health centre in the capital Sanaa on March 18, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 19 April 2018
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Neglected tropical diseases killing thousands globally put 6 million at risk in war-torn Yemen

  • Aside from cholera, Yemen is affected by numerous neglected tropical diseases – an epidemic that is affecting 1.5 billion people worldwide and killing around 170,000 per year
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that in 2016, over 6 million people in Yemen were in need of treatment for NTDs

DUBAI: Amid a conflict that has divided the nation and – according to the UN - the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II, Yemen’s population of 27 million is also dealing with diseases that cause early deaths.

Aside from cholera, Yemen is affected by numerous neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) – an epidemic that is affecting 1.5 billion people worldwide and killing around 170,000 per year.

“NTDs are a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries – affect more than one billion people and cost developing economies billions of dollars every year,” Associate Director of External Relations of END Fund, Yayne Hailu told Arab News.

The five most common NTDs are intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis and river blindness.

Intestinal worms cause infection which give the patient diarrhea with blood and mucus in the stool. Schistosomiasis cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloody stool, or blood in the urine. Trachoma causes a roughening of the inner surface of the eyelids. Lymphatic filariasis affects body’s fluid balance and fights infections. While river blindness causes severe itching, bumps under the skin, and blindness.

Populations living in poverty, without adequate sanitation and in close contact with infectious vectors and domestic animals and livestock are those worst affected.

Yemen has one of the highest levels of NTDs across the Middle East, according to the END Fund, a private philanthropic initiative dedicated to ending the five most common NTDs, whose founding investment came from Legatum Foundation, a Dubai-based private investment company.

 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that in 2016, over 6 million people in Yemen were in need of treatment for NTDs.

Over the last seven years, Yemen’s Ministry of Public Health and Population with support from NGOs, began treating people suffering from schistosomiasis and intestinal worms.  And according to the END Fund, nine million people received treatment for these two diseases since 2013.

However, treatment was stopped in 2015 due to the conflict, but localized rounds were conducted in 2016 and 2017 in areas deemed secure. But, due to security issues, treatment is difficult, a report by the END Fund said. 

It is not known what the exact number is of the those currently affected due to the lack of facilities and disruptions caused by war.

Hailu explained that the unstable situation in Yemen could lead to the wide spread of the diseases.

“Conflict can pose several threats including migration of large numbers of people fleeing conflict zones and living in crowded areas with a lack of access to proper sanitation and clean water,” she said.

She also stated that the conflict could cause several people to interrupt their treatment, which is often a multi-year process.

“If treatment is unable to continue, this could cause a resurgence of these diseases and halt progress being made in ending them in certain communities,” Hailu said.

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Neglected Tropical Diseases

NTDs affecting 1.5 billion people worldwide and killing around 170,000 per year


Libyan commander marching on capital dismisses negotiations

Updated 20 June 2019
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Libyan commander marching on capital dismisses negotiations

  • Khalifa Haftar vows that his fighters will get rid of ‘terrorist militias’

CAIRO: A Libyan commander, whose forces are fighting to take the country’s capital of Tripoli from militias allied with a UN-backed government based there, has dismissed an initiative by its prime minister for negotiations to end the crisis.

Instead, Khalifa Haftar vowed in comments to a news website on Wednesday that his fighters would press on with the weeks-long offensive until Tripoli is rid of what he described as “terrorist militias.”

“Our military operations will not stop” until Tripoli is taken, Haftar told almarsad.co.

“The situation is excellent and I call on the Libyans to ignore rumors about our withdrawal,” Haftar said in interviews with Libyan news websites The Address and The Observer published overnight Wednesday to Thursday.

The offensive to seize the capital “will not stop before all its objectives are reached,” he said.

The campaign by Haftar’s Liberation National Army has raised fears of another bout of violence after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi. Since then, the country has sunk into chaos, with rival administrations in the east and the west, and an array of forces and militias allied with either side.

On Monday, the World Health Organization reported the latest casualty tolls for the fighting in and around Tripoli, saying 691 people have been killed so far, including 41 civilians, and 4,012 wounded, 135 of them civilians.

The head of the Tripoli-based government, Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, told a news conference on Sunday he is proposing a “Libyan forum,” aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the conflict.

The talks would draw up a roadmap for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held before the end of 2019, Al-Sarraj said. 

In his remarks to the news website, Haftar dismissed Al-Sarraj’s initiative and criticized him as an ineffective leader.

“Initiatives have no meaning unless they are brave and carry clear clauses that address the causes of the crisis and its very roots,” Haftar said.

Haftar has presented himself as someone able to restore stability. In recent years, his campaign against militants across Libya won him growing international support from world leaders who say they are concerned the North African country has turned into a haven for armed groups, and a major conduit for migrants bound for Europe.