Podoconiosis in Ethiopia: From Neglect to Priority Public Health Problem
Podoconiosis is a geochemical disease occurring in individuals exposed to red clay soil of volcanic origin. This Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) is highly prevalent in Ethiopia. According to the nationwide mapping in 2013, the disease is endemic in 345 districts, where an estimated 35 million people live. The government of Ethiopia prioritized podoconiosis as one of eight priority NTDs and included it in the national integrated master plan for NTDs. An integrated lymphoedema management guideline has been developed. Service expansion has continued in the last few years and lymphoedema management services have been expanded to over one hundred endemic districts. The last few years have been critical in generating evidence about the distribution, burden and effective interventions for podoconiosis in Ethiopia. Although the extent of the problem within Ethiopia is considerable, the country is well positioned to now scale-up elimination efforts. Given the extraordinary progress of the past ten years and the current commitment of government, private and third sectors, Ethiopia seems to be on course for the elimination of podoconiosis in our lifetime. We need continued strong partner commitment, evidence-building, and scale-up of activities to accomplish this.