The neglected diseases of the jungle

The neglected diseases of the jungle
2018. Detection of refractive defects and other ocular pathologies in the Department of Guainía, Colombia. Photo: María Camila Rodríguez © Sinergias ONG

The neglected diseases of the jungle

Neglected tropical infectious diseases (NTDs) are a group of infectious diseases that mainly affect the poorest populations. They are associated with inadequate access to health services, education, safe water, and basic sanitation, and not receiving sufficient attention, despite the fact that most of them are treatable and can be cured with easily accessible and low-cost drugs.

The population of the Amazon region has a high prevalence of neglected infectious diseases such as geohelminthiasis; according to data from the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, 58% of the population in the Amazon region has Ascaris lumbricoides and 50% has Trichuris trichiura. The prevalence of active forms of ocular trachoma in the Department of Vaupés is over 20%. These diseases have chronic consequences in individuals and communities because they can affect growth, physical and intellectual development and learning capacity, which in turn reduces labor productivity. Some can lead to physical disfigurement and social stigmatization; others, such as trachoma, can cause blindness, which can become a risk factor for early deaths due to falls and/or snake bites.

The challenge in the Amazon region is not the lack of water, as is the case in other territories such as Sub-Saharan Africa. In the tropical rainforest, work must be done on water purification, hygiene habits and improving access to health services, but especially on understanding the local vision of diseases and developing joint strategies for their prevention and management, taking advantage of local resources.