On March 15, the first-ever international podoconiosis initiative, Footwork was launched. Footwork is aimed at raising public awareness about the causes and impact of podoconiosis in affected communities, and advocates for it to be included in global health and NTD agendas.
Classified as an NTD by the WHO in 2011, podoconiosis is a form of elephantiasis, in which swelling of the lower leg is triggered by prolonged exposure to irritant minerals in red clay soils. Unlike most NTDs, there is no infectious or contagious agent: no parasite, no bacterium, no virus is involved. An estimated 4 million people in highland tropical Africa are affected with podoconiosis, and it has been confirmed in at least 15 countries in Africa, Central America and Asia.
The disease can have devastating economic, social and physical consequences. Individuals afflicted with podoconiosis suffer debilitating physical pain, and are often ostracized from social and religious events. In 2005, an economic study reported that podoconiosis cost Ethiopia an estimated $208 million per year in lost productivity and medical costs.
Fortunately, podoconiosis is both preventable and treatable. Footwork, campaigns for prevention and treatment of the disease, and ultimately aims to eliminate podoconiosis within our lifetimes.
Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases is a partner of Footwork.
Click here to learn more about Footwork.