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EIU releases report on neglected diseases

EIU releases report on neglected diseases

Eradicating parasites could save Ethiopia USD 3.2 bln

A new research report released by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) – a research and analysis division of The Economist Group – has shown that the eradication of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) could save Ethiopia USD 3.2 billion in the coming two decades, The Reporter has learnt.

The report dubbed “Breaking the cycle of neglect: reducing the economic and societal burden of parasitic worms in sub-Saharan Africa,” is commissioned by The End Fund, a private philanthropic initiative dedicated to ending the five most common NTDs. The study has indicated that 40 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa carries the burden of such diseases worldwide. Globally, 1.7 billion people require treatment for NTDs.  

Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Zimbabwe are included in the studies and eradicating the diseases is assumed to reduce costs and save much needed economic resources. For Ethiopia alone, estimates are around USD 3.2 billion.

“Overall, our calculations suggest that Ethiopia stands to gain USD 3.2 billion in GDP, in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms (USD one billion at market exchange rates), between 2021 and 2040, if the WHO's 2030 elimination targets are hit,” EIU estimated. Putting this in perspective, experts with EIU suggested that the anticipated gain is equivalent to over a third or 37 percent of the country’s total spending on health in 2017.

Karen Palacio, Associate Vice President of End Fund, said that Ethiopia has the highest burden of NTDs compared to Kenya, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe.

Ethiopia has the second-highest rate of Soil-transmitted Helminthiasis (STH), with 29 percent of the population affected. Within STH, hookworm disease is by far the most common parasite affecting 25 percent of people in Ethiopia. Ascariasis and trichuriasis both affect about 3 percent of the population. Ethiopia’s schistosomiasis/bilharzia prevalence rate climbed between 1990 to around 2010, but has plateaued since then.

Since 2018, 18.2 million people in Ethiopia have needed preventive chemotrophic treatments for STH and 13.4 million for schistosomiasis.

Schistosomiasis is considered endemic in rural and urban Ethiopia, and it stands out as the largest host of the parasites compared to the rest of the three countries EIU has studied.

According to Palacio, deworming programs are the most common treatments in Ethiopia and the rest of Africa in addition to sanitary and hygienic measures. Open defecation and lack of tap water services have contributed to the massive prevalence of intestinal worms and parasites affecting school children and adults.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has set out a deadline to eradicate NTDs in 2030, and their resurgence is considered as one of the health priorities in Ethiopia. Achieving these targets, predominantly eradicating STH and bilharzia, is expected positively to impact three of the remaining countries economically. In addition to Ethiopia, gaining USD 3.2 billion, EIU suggests that Kenya will land USD 1.3 billion, while Rwanda gets USD 400 million and Zimbabwe USD 300 million, once the countries can exert efforts to eradicate and control the resurgences of NTDs between 2021 and 2040.   

The EIU is a research and analysis division of The Economist Group, a sister company to The Economist newspaper. Formed in 1946, it has over 70 years of experience in research activities. It has been working on various business, economic, and government-related activities, undertaking research programs involving hepatitis across Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda, and a few other countries.  

The End Fund, established in 2012, on its part, has been engaged in health issues, mostly in NTDs. It has provided some 920 million treatments worth over USD one billion and 17,000 surgeries for people suffering from the effects of advanced stages of elephantiasis and trachoma. It has also trained 2.7 million people to control and eliminate NTDs.