Diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, are found elsewhere. Others, such as sleeping sickness, are specific to Africa.
Inoculations, vaccinations and other means of prevention are available. For example, insecticide-treated nets help people avoid the fly bites which lead to infections such as malaria. But the lack of easy access to health clinics and the costs of certain treatments or prevention methods can put help out of the reach of many families.
Malaria is widespread and is said to kill one African child every 30 seconds. It is the leading cause of death among under-fives in many countries. Bilharzia (also known as Schistosomiasis) is another common illness, caused by parasites which live and breed in some freshwater snails. Lassa Fever, found particularly in West Africa, is highly contagious and can cause severe or fatal illness.
Polio, now eradicated from many parts of the world, is still endemic in Nigeria and outbreaks also occur in other African countries. Once contracted, it is incurable and can cause permanent paralysis.
Other common diseases include:
Elephantiasis, which causes an accumulation of fluid, usually in a limb;
Leprosy, which causes disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage;
Helminthiasis, an infestation of parasitic worms in the intestines, and
Trachoma, a bacterial eye infection which can lead to blindness.
If neglected, most diseases will cause severe health issues which limit the sufferer’s ability to earn a living. Early diagnosis and cures are available, but diseases continue to disable and claim the lives of many.
Africans need to arise when it comes to healthcare.