Five neglected tropical diseases that have already been eradicated in some countries are still prevalent in Indonesia. Despite this, investment in research into those diseases in the country continues to shrink, officials said on Friday.
Health minister Nafsiah Mboi said that the negative impact of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), ranges from various health problems to economic losses.
Speaking at the opening of a Southeast Asian health seminar in Jakarta, Nafsiah identified the five diseases as filariasis, schistosomiasis, worms, leprosy and yaws. The World Health Organization in 2010 said there were still 17 NTDs, which are especially prevalent among the poor, in the world.
Data from the health ministry showed that in 2011, there were still 12,066 sufferers of chronic filariasis in 33 districts and municipalities. Filariasis is a parasitic disease caused by worms that is transmitted mainly through black flies and mosquitoes and causes swelling of the extremities.
Although Indonesia declared it had eliminated leprosy in 2010, with infection rates less than one per 10,000 people, it has still had 17,000 new cases per year, health ministry data showed.
Nafsiah said that one of the keys to overcoming these NTDs was good sanitation and hygiene.
“Most of these diseases could actually be prevented and cured. If we meet our seventh Millennium Development Goal target on the provision of clean water, we will certainly be able to eliminate these diseases,” Nafsiah said.
Khanchit Limpakarnjanarat, the WHO representative to Indonesia, said the biggest challenge in eliminating NTDs is achieving 100 percent treatment.
“The other biggest challenge is how to combine the limited resources in health with the numerous number of diseases,” Khanchit said.
Nafsiah also said the treatment of NTDs was hampered by the difficulties in finding cases as social stigma often linked to the NTDs usually deterred sufferers from seeking treatment.
Khanchit also said that despite the continued existence of NTDs, investment and research in their treatment here was getting scarcer.
“Only a few pharmaceutical companies invest in the production of medicine for these kinds of diseases,” he said.
Khancit said that because the diseases are already rare in many countries, there are no incentives for pharmaceutical companies to invest in research and production of cures.