Each year, millions of people across the world suffer and die from diseases that are entirely preventable and curable. Without the proper medications or preventative measures, future generations face the same struggles—struggles that cause a new mother to lose her child, or a young boy to lose his sight.
The most common preventable (and in most cases curable) diseases that kill millions and cause agony across the world are tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/AIDS, cholera, typhoid, and diarrhea. With the exception of HIV/AIDS, most of these diseases sound more of an inconvenience than a serious health risk, right? Think again! Consider the following information provided by the World Health Organization.
A disease caused by inadequate access to health care and poor sanitation which causes approximately two million deaths per year—with more than one billion people currently infected across the world. TB mostly affects the lungs, causing chest pain, fatigue, and weight loss and chills, among other symptoms.
A mosquito-spreading disease that is the cause for one to three million deaths per year but affects over 500 million people annually, found mostly in tropical and subtropical climates, infecting children more than any other age category. Families that own anti-malarial bed nets have a much higher chance of not contracting this disease. Symptoms of malaria include high fever, headaches, weakness, and swelling of the spleen.
A disease caused by contaminated drinking water and poor sanitation, and that attacks the intestines. Cholera is incredibly contagious, especially after natural disasters when people are the most vulnerable. Most fatal victims of cholera die from dehydration, a symptom of the disease, and also may develop cramping and vomiting. An estimated 200,000 people are victims of cholera each year.
Typhoid is a disease spread through infected food and water, which affects up to 17 million people annually and takes an expected 600,000 lives. Symptoms include chronic fever, fatigue, headache, nausea, and loss of appetite.
The second most common cause of infant deaths worldwide and one of the most common causes of death in developing countries. Diarrhea is responsible for malabsorption and the loss of fluid and electrolytes in the body, causing an estimated 1.5 million deaths in infants and 1.1 million deaths in non-infants annually. Generally caused by parasites, viruses, and bacteria—found in inadequate sanitation and unsafe drinking water. Over the past 25 years, an estimated 50 million lives have been saved as a result of the introduction of oral rehydration salts.
It is estimated that those who suffer from the effects of HIV/AIDS, caused generally by the transmission of body fluids during sex or sharing of infected needles, number over 35 million across the world, causing an estimated two million deaths per year. Those who suffer from HIV/AIDS, which attacks and completely degrades the immune system, are left defenseless against common diseases and infections, such as pneumonia, which become deadly.
Although a cure has not yet been found for HIV/AIDS, preventative measures save lives! The more information that is spread, the more dirty needles that are exchanged with clean needles for free, and the more condoms that are used, the more lives are saved. Antiretroviral medications also have the ability to significantly improve the quality of life of a person infected with HIV/AIDS, in some instances even prolonging lives; however, access to these medications is limited because of the monetary cost.
For more information on common diseases, check out: www.who.int/research
If you’re interested in making a difference, you have various organizations waiting for you. Check out the Health Care and HIV/AIDS pages under “What to do” on Volunteer Global or make a Google search! Here are just a few awesome organizations to get you started:
- Partners in Health
- Doctors without Borders
- African Impact
- Global Crossroad
- International Smile Power Foundation
- El Porvenir
- Havilla Children Center
- The Humanity Exchange
- Mission Doctors Association
- Nexos Voluntarios
Also—if you are pressed for time or cash and cannot volunteer for an organization, take a stand and demand that your Senators and Representatives do more for the prevention and care of victims of these diseases. Send letters, emails, circulate petitions, make phone calls, and have your voice heard. Too many people are dying each day as a result of apathetic and disorganized people who could make a real difference.
Photo credits: Wikimedia Commons