Decolonising diseases – Is only the white man’s disease worth treating?
For all of us who think we live in a world that has moved past colonisation, we will find ourselves wrong. Not only does the racial supremacy of whites prevail, but this gets manifested in ways we may not realise immediately. An example of this would be the visceral leishmaniasis disease that has gone under-researched and whose treatment is not available to most of its victims.
The disease affects about 3,00,000 people every year, out of which about a 20,000 succumb to death. It is the second most deadly parasitic disease, after malaria, and affects the spleen, liver, and bone marrow. The victims of this disease mostly come from the under-privileged and marginalised sections of the society. It is prevalent in the tropical areas posing almost no threat to the ‘first world’. The result? There has been very little research done on the same.
Richard Wamai, professor of global health at Northeastern University, has been conducting his research on the disease in Kenya. With his efforts of five years, Wamai has managed to open a new wing, guesthouse, and research centre in the Chemolingot Sub-County Hospital, exclusively for the patients of this disease. This new wing includes 29 beds and up-to-date three room laboratory that is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment. He also oversaw the trip to Chemolingot, where 27 clinicians and healthcare workers provided the Pokot tribe with education and disease screening.
Wamai and Northeastern professor Michael Pollastri worked together and co-founded the Integrated Initiative for Global Health at Northeastern, with a focus on studying neglected diseases. They worked together to look at leishmaniasis from an interdisciplinary angle as well. Pollastri also runs the Laboratory for Neglected Disease Drug Discovery at Northeastern. Together, they hope to build a healthier world where everyone has the right to healthcare.
N Malavika Mohan