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Crowdfunding for lymphatic filariasis

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Also known as filariasis, lymphatic filariasis is not one of the most common diseases around in a country as populous as India, even with 650 million people affected or at risk. In Hindi called hathipao, it is now categorized as extremely rare, but it is permanently damaging for the patients nonetheless. Why this obscurity? Because in filaria, caused by the worm species Wuchereria bancrofti and Brugia malayi transmitted by the vector mosquitoes are highly contagious, the larvae may live in the human beings for as much as 5-8 years without showing any symptoms, quietly damaging the lymphatic system. It is only when the swelling of the limbs, especially the legs, starts when people start noticing. Another reason for this disease remaining mostly out of the spotlight is that though around 300 districts across 20 states remain vulnerable to the disease, it is mostly the poor in unhygienic conditions who are affected by this.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has long been involved in studying the disease in India. The government of India had first set the deadline for completely eradicating the disease from this land at 2015, which was then extended to 2017. But now, even the revised deadline of 2020 would be impossible.

The strategy used to tackle filariasis worldwide is Mass Drug Administration (MDA), which is what the national health policy too follows. It involves administering 65% of the population of each target district with DEC and albendazole every five years. The health ministry has been on with the Hathipaon Mukt Bharat (Filaria Free India) since 2004. The WHO has made albendazole free for India, and DEC comers at 30% free.

So unlike most of the other health problems facing the country, filariasis is quite actively accounted for by the public health care system. In spite of that, the government has to repeatedly keep on pushing back the deadline. Why is this so? The two main reasons are the general apathy in both the target population most of which refuse to consume the medicines without symptoms, and that of the healthcare functionaries. Along with that, the various statistics used to combat the disease often go out of date without immediate revision.

Under such circumstances, what can the individual do to combat this disease, especially if the victims are the urban poor or reside in areas that are not covered by the government schemes? They can obviously resort to crowdfunding. Both individuals and NGOs have a role to play here. A crowdfunding campaign on the best crowdfunding platforms in India would ensure the relatively cheap treatment, but more importantly, more people from the middle-class would become aware of this disease. A successful crowdfunding effort would consist of starting a crowdfunding campaign in the major crowdfunding websites  like Crowdfunding India and urging people to donate.