Issue brief |

Combating Kala Azar: treatment is possible even in remote settings

Visceral leishmaniasis (VL), also known as kala azar, is a worldwide protozoal vector-borne disease, endemic in 76 countries. The annual incidence is estimated to be 250-300,000 cases, with over 90 percent of those cases occurring in India, Bangladesh, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Brazil. Like all neglected diseases, kala azar affects mainly the poorest and most invisible population, with little or no political power. Without treatment, almost all patients will die, however timely diagnosis and treatment will cure nearly all patients, even in resourcelimited and remote circumstances.

There are many challenges in combating kala azar, as the strategies to fight the disease vary according to the context. Through its activities in the field, MSF has proved that it is possible to diagnose and treat kala azar patients with a high cure rate even in remote settings. It is now essential to increase patient access to proper diagnosis and treatment, scale up political and financial commitment to roll out and reinforce current control programmes, while at the same time investing in development of better tools to fight against the disease.

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