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The tropical disease that targets refugees

Aamir's story


Treating Leishmaniasis, the tropical disease that plagues refugee camps.

The tropical disease that targets refugees

free Treatment|Prevention|1.3m annual cases

Children with Leishmaniasis

Aamir is five years old and lives with his family in a small mud house in a refugee camp for Afghans living in Pakistan. 

Due to the poor sanitary conditions in the camp, Aamir contracted the flesh-eating disease, Leishmaniasis. This aggressive skin disease causes large, extremely painful open skin ulcers. The condition can be so unpleasant that those afflicted are often shunned by their communities. Aamir's father, Qadir, brought him to International Medical Crops' health clinic after a year of suffering lesions on his nose and legs.


Baghdad boils and Jericho buttons

Aamir received injections for 30 days and an insecticide-treated bed net. Finally, his lesions began to heal. Qadir says he is grateful to International Medical Corps for providing quality, free treatment for his family right on their doorstep.

International Medical Corps is implementing a project in three refugee villages of North West Pakistan to treat and prevent the spread of the disease.

Refugees are especially susceptible to the disease, which is transmitted by the bite of sandflies that commonly thrive in dusty, overpopulated camps. Known scientifically as Leishmaniasis, it also has generated a variety of more colorful names that hint at its broad worldly reach—names such as Balkan sores, Baghdad boils and Jericho buttons.

Some patients traveled 40-50 miles to seek treatment, a hopeful attempt to prevent the disease from disfiguring them for life. International Medical Corps’ Project Officer, Dr. Saeed Ahmad reported, “Many patients told us that before these activities started, they had no idea about this disease. International Medical Corps has been working in these camps for over 10 years and as such the local community trusts us and were very positive about our help.”

International Medical Corps’ works with the Afghan refugee community in Pakistan, the world’s largest protracted refugee community. The project has already reached 4,700 people through community education campaigns and the distribution of insecticide-treated nets. We are also training Ministry of Health staff on surveillance, diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

The most famous person to contract the disease is TV personality and adventurer Ben Fogel, who was bitten by a sandfly in the Amazon jungle. He now works as an advocate to bring awareness of the disease. He told the Daily Mail, “Many people around the world… don't have access to treatment. And the drugs are so archaic - there's very little money being put into researching new treatments or cures,”

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 700,000 to 1.3 million cases of Leishmaniasis occur around the world every year, two thirds of which occur in Afghanistan, Algeria, Brazil, Colombia, Iran and Syria.

This project was made possible with the support of the Jersey Overseas Aid Commission.

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