Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - Indonesia's Health Ministry has warned that dormant tropical diseases still remain a problem in the country and could still affect a large number of people in the future.
Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi said that these diseases are mostly poverty-related.
"It's true that these diseases are not always deadly but they can cause disabilities and result in significant economic losses," Mboi said over the weekend.
Data from the Health Ministry says that despite efforts to eliminate them, five out of a total of 17 neglected tropical diseases remain endemic in Indonesia. They include filariasis, leprosy, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis and yaws (framboesia).
Indonesia has been successful in reducing the number of leprosy cases. Leprosy currently affects one in 10,000 people, which means on average 17,000 people are infected with the illness annually.
"In terms of percentage, it doesn't mean anything. People can say, 'oh, it's nothing as we [Indonesia] have millions of people. We have 200,000 people die of diarrhoea every year and 50,000 people die of HIV/AIDS'. But this goes beyond the number. This is a human rights problem," said Mboi.
In 2011, the health ministry reported 20,023 new leprosy cases. As of December 2011, the number of patients with leprosy, who seek medical attention, reached 23,169. Indonesia now ranks the third of countries with highest number of people suffering from leprosy.
"Since 1982, we have delivered medical treatment to 400,000 leprosy patients," said the Health Ministry's director general for disease control and environmental health Tjandra Yoga Aditama.
The ministry's chief of leprosy and framboesia control sub-directorate Christina Widaningrum said that of the total patients, 10 per cent would suffer from disabilities or obvious physical damage in the "second-degree".
"During the period 1990-2011, we had 33,000 leprosy patients with second degree disabilities who became a burden to their families," she told The Jakarta Post.
Like leprosy, framboesia also remains endemic and mostly affects people in East Nusa Tenggara, West Nusa Tenggara and Papua.
Schistosomiasis is still endemic in three areas of Central Sulawesi, Lembah Napu, Lindu and Napa.
As of 2011, Indonesia has 12,066 patients with chronic lymphatic filariasis in 334 regencies and municipalities.
To combat the disease, the ministry has set up the Mass Drug Administration in 119 regencies and municipalities. In total, 23.9 million people with lymphatic filariasis have received treatment called "ingested chemotherapy".
Neglected tropical diseases affect more than one billion people worldwide, mostly those who are living in remote rural areas and urban slums. Asean still has a high prevalence of neglected tropical diseases.
Asean Foundation chairman Ambassador Makarim Wibisono said in some Asean countries where more than a half of the total population were still living in poor condition, health issues remained a daunting problem from birth, through infancy, school-age, adolescents, productive and old age.
"Neglected tropical diseases contribute to ongoing cycle of poverty and stigma that leave people unable to work, go to school or participate in family and community lives," he said.