Without proper investment in preventing and responding to outbreaks of cholera, malaria, measles, meningitis and a group of often-overlooked diseases spread by viruses and parasites, they are likely to pose an ever greater threat to people’s health in the year ahead.
Current strategies to prevent major outbreaks of disease show only limited success. Epidemics continue to occur, often with devastating consequences for some less developed countries. Epidemics open up cracks in national health systems, exhaust available resources and, in many cases, kill large numbers of people.
“We know that thousands of lives will be at risk in the year to come, although the means exist to prevent these deaths,” says Dr Monica Rull, operational health advisor for MSF. “Epidemics of cholera, malaria, measles and meningitis take place every year, incapacitating and killing many – and this needs to stop. At the same time, the threat posed by emerging and re-emerging virus and parasite-spread diseases – such as dengue fever, Zika, Ebola and Kala Azar – needs to be faced.”
Along with prevention measures, resources must be provided to build effective emergency response systems. This must be part of a broader effort to help countries strengthen their health infrastructure and capabilities and provide health education to local communities.
Rapid alert mechanisms must be accompanied by rapid response activities once a disease breaks out, with free and quality medical care provided to all those affected.