In late 2022, a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team received an alert about an unusually high number of deaths among an isolated group of people living in the Omo Valley, in Ethiopia’s Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR). The team discovered an outbreak of visceral leishmaniasis, also known as kala azar.
MSF immediately prepared an emergency response, setting up mobile clinics that identified and treated 79 patients suffering from the neglected tropical disease in less than two months.
Kala azar, a parasitic disease transmitted by the bite of infected sand flies, is not only one of the most neglected tropical diseases but also one of deadliest. It has become endemic in many parts of Ethiopia after it was first documented in 1942. More than 3.2 million people across the country are at risk.