The nation of Indonesia is fast becoming a critical player in the world’s globalized economy. While it is still a poor country, it has quickly developed into a viable source of economic and trade activity. However, the future of Indonesia’s success in helping to pull its people out of poverty is inextricably linked to stamping out neglected tropical diseases that plague the country’s poor, according to National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine Dr. Peter Hotez and other world health leaders.
NTDs have been singled out as a primary concern for the Indonesian government — and for world governing bodies — as efforts are made to try and sustain the country’s economic growth and viability in the world marketplace. However, the fact that 111 million people in Indonesia – which accounts for 46 percent of the population – live on less than $2 per day, while approximately 44 million people – or 18 percent of the population – live on less than $1.25 per day, directly impacts public health in the country, since poor people do not have access to proper sanitation, clean water, and healthy food sources. The result is a “cycle of poverty” wherein low incomes and standards of living foster the continued weight of NTDs, muting the country’s ability to remain productive and viable.
Read more about Dr. Peter Hotez and his work.
Dr. Peter Hotez, who is also the president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, spoke directly to this point recently, stating: “As Southeast Asia’s largest economy, G20 leader, co-chair of the United Nation’s High Level Panel on the post-2015 development agenda, and ASEAN member, Indonesia is clearly positioned to make significant advances against NTDs,” adding that, “Indonesia can improve the lives of its most marginalized citizens by continuing to prioritize NTDs and ensuring that treatment and prevention programs reach all vulnerable communities.”
NTDs cause anemia, malnutrition, disability, and stigma – preventing children from attending school, keeping adults from working, and increasing the consequences of other diseases – thereby contributing to decreases in human capital and worker productivity.
In point of fact, while Indonesia is indeed Southeast Asia’s largest economy, it is also disproportionately affected by NTDs: “an estimated 195 million people – including 50 million children – are at risk for soil-transmitted helminths, 125 million people are at risk for lymphatic filariasis and approximately 25,000 – 50,000 people are at risk for schistosomiasis. The number of dengue cases reported annually to the WHO ranks Indonesia as having the second largest number of cases worldwide, with all four serotypes represented,” according to Medical Express.
Lorenzo Savioli, MD, director of the Department of Control of NTDs at the World Health Organization (WHO), also weighed in on the issue of NTDs in Indonesia as well, noting that, “Today, 70 percent of the poorest are in fast growing economies and middle income countries like Indonesia. Indonesia’s commitment to and investment in controlling and eliminating NTDs could lift millions of Indonesians out of poverty and empower them to lead healthy, productive lives, benefiting the nation as a whole and assuring an equitable distribution of the wealth generated by economic growth.”
For their part, the Indonesian government recognizes that NTDs must remain a priority, and is working directly with the WHO to implement a roadmap through its Ministry of Health, in an effort to eradicate NTDs by 2020.