The British government has revealed that it has been funding the fight against a neglected tropical disease in Israel and the Palestinian territories for the past three years.
With the medical world’s attention firmly fixed on finding a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, a government-funded programme has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds from 2017-20 fighting Leishmaniasis in areas such as the Galilee region.
The £3 million three-year People to People programme facilitates interaction between youth leaders and religious communities, and funds the health sector within those communities.
News of the British medical intervention came from a House of Commons answer from Middle East Minister James Cleverly this week, when he revealed that the programme had been funding “cooperation between health academics and senior health workers [on Leishmaniasis] for the wellbeing of both populations”.
Leishmaniasis is a potentially-fatal infection transmitted through the bite of an infected female sandfly. These tiny silver nocturnal insects are typically found in forests, stone and mud wall cracks, and animal burrows, and tend to bite from dusk to dawn.
Often described as a tropical disease affecting the world’s poor, it can also impact adventure travellers, bird watchers, missionaries, army personnel, construction workers and researchers on night-time assignments.
Whilst there is no vaccine, insecticide-treated screens and nets, such as those soaked in permethrin, can help keep sandflies out of houses, and antifungals and antibiotics can help treat those who get infected.
In Israel and the Palestinian territories several high-risk areas have been identified including the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea region, Negev Desert wadis, the Judean foothills of central Israel, and the northern Galilee region.
In response to a question from Matthew Offord MP, Cleverly said part of the £3 million had been spent tackling Leishmaniasis there, which he described as “a neglected tropical disease”.