Paola Monari visited Ethiopia in 2019 to look into the country’s skin disease epidemiology. Her objective was to establish a connection between skin conditions and poverty. Her coworkers who had worked there recommended the Axum Referral Hospital in the Tigray Region, so she chose it.
Monari collected samples from 467 patients at the Hospital’s dermatology clinic along with a group of 11 researchers, including two Ethiopian experts. Her investigation discovered a direct relationship between poverty and skin illness, which supported her hypothesis.
According to the study, households with a large number of family members living in a single housing unit, inadequate sanitation, low literacy rates, and poor housing conditions are more likely to experience skin diseases.
Monari also discussed how patients had to purchase medications in bulk in order to get the results they needed because the majority of medications were scarcely accessible and those that were came in small quantities.
“Buying one tube of medication is expensive enough, and the majority of people cannot afford to purchase two or more tubes of the medication, so they are unable to receive the proper treatment for their illnesses,” Monari said at the eighth edition international congress, which was held on November 21, 2022, at the Italian Institute of Culture in Addis Ababa.
The congress was held with a theme of “Skin on the Move,” which focuses on tropical neglected skin diseases, global health, and the COVID-19 pandemic. It was organized in collaboration with Wolayita Sodo University’s teaching referral hospital and Saint Paul’s Referral Hospital Millennium Medical College. The week-long congress, centered on skin and skin diseases, will be held in Addis Ababa, followed by trips to Arba Minch and Sodo.
Doctors and researchers gathered at the institute for the opening ceremony, which was led by the Italian Ambassador, Agostino Palese, and this was followed by presentations from various researchers about Ethiopian skin and skin diseases.
In addition to case studies on skin diseases conducted by researchers from Italy, Ethiopia, and other countries, the presentations included overviews of skin diseases and the distinction between light and dark skin, clinical manifestations of various skin diseases, COVID-19 and its manifestation on skin, and many more.
The movement to bring together academics and medical professionals to present their findings in Ethiopia was started by the event’s president, Aldo Morrone, a professor at the San Gallicano Dermatological Institute who has conducted numerous studies in Ethiopia regarding skin diseases.
Skin conditions also cause stigma among members of a community. The Global Burden of Disease project has shown that skin diseases continue to be the 4th leading cause of nonfatal disease burden world-wide. Research and funding initiatives to stop the spread of skin diseases, however, have received little attention.
Numerous people all over the world are afflicted by the common skin condition vitiligo, which results in a permanent loss of skin color in patches. However, the obvious visibility it has on black people’s skin causes social isolation. Cases of people alienating people with vitiligo have been reported because it resembles leprosy, a more damaging disease, according to Monari.
For Aldo Morrone, doctors can benefit from the fact that skin diseases are visible to the naked eye. “We can teach all of our colleagues, medical doctors, nurses, and midwives, to recognize these skin diseases and correlate them to internal and oncological diseases, which will allow them to diagnose and treat potentially dangerous conditions earlier.”
Skin lesions and diseases are reflections of internal, oncological, or infectious diseases, Morrone says. He emphasized the significance of early diagnosis based on skin manifestations, as it can result in recovery with fewer drugs and improve people’s quality of life.
“Ethiopia is four times the size of Italy and has twice the population, so it is important for organizations to hold surveys on the various skin diseases in different regions and study the spread of these diseases.” Morrone said, adding that it will be simpler to begin with the preventive activities for these diseases once the survey is finished.
Moving forward, Skin on the Move intends to bring courses and training in dermatology, venerology, and infectiology to universities. They also plan to train general practitioners, nurses, and midwives to recognize the link between skin diseases and internal diseases.