Artfully Bringing Stories of Neglected Tropical Diseases to Life

October 8th, 2013 by Alex Gordon Leave a reply

There are several ways to describe the impact of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) on millions of families worldwide. But this may be one of the most artful and poetic we’ve seen.

Last week, medical student and artist Shelly Xie showcased two sand animations that thoughtfully illustrated stories of families infected with hookworm and Chagas disease at the Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) 52nd Directing Council. Shelly’s poetic narration, mixed with moving music and sand drawings, gave these complex stories life.

Shelly’s first animation tells the story of a Brazilian family. Maria, Antonio and their daughter Francisca contract hookworm – a parasitic disease which leaves them sick, tired and unable to work, go to school or take care of their crops.  This story is illustrative of the broader burden NTDs have on millions of Latin American and Caribbean families. Over 13.8 million preschool and 31 million school age children are at risk of hookworm and other parasitic intestinal worms.

Shelly’s second animation tells the story of a young couple in Argentina who contracts Chagas disease. After being bit by the Triatomine bug, both the husband and wife become too sick to work and take care of their livestock. Even worse, the mother is expecting a child who now has a chance of contracting Chagas disease as well. After a week, the couple begins to feel better – but what they don’t know is the side-effects of Chagas disease could lead to an enlarged colon and esophagus, or even heart failure in the years to come. It is estimated that 10 to 11 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean are living with Chagas, Shelly explains.

Shelly’s animations are part of PAHO’s Art Research Project – a program that works with different sectors of society to show how we can all have an impact on global health efforts. Her unique and artistic messaging has the power to include an even wider audience in NTD advocacy and awareness efforts worldwide.

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