Face to face with chronic disease

Zahida Bibi has been living with diabetes for twenty years
WHO/Chris de Bode
Zahida Bibi has been living with diabetes for twenty years

The disease profile of the world is rapidly evolving. This is especially true in low and middle income countries where chronic diseases are creating a double burden on top of infectious diseases. As these stories will show, even least developed countries are not immune to the growing epidemics of heart disease, stroke, cancer and other chronic diseases.

Contrary to common belief, these diseases do not only affect men in high income countries: 80% of chronic disease deaths now occur in low and middle income countries and they affect men and women almost equally. Another unfortunate reality is that chronic diseases account for 60% of all deaths – corresponding to a projected 36.65 million deaths worldwide in 2007.

This series of stories is about people living with chronic diseases and common underlying risks. In a world where more and more people are dying as a result of chronic diseases, and many more millions are disabled, these stories aim to demonstrate the deep and personal impact of chronic diseases on individuals and their families.

Blindness: The gift of sight for Kuzhanthiammal
Kuzhanthiammal, 67, regained her vision after free cataract surgery done by the Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, India

Blindness: Trachoma snatches Mzurisana's livelihood
Despite surgery, Mzurisana still cannot see well enough to make necklaces that she once sold as her main source of income

Cancer: Maria faces health care barriers
Because of poor access to quality health care, Maria suffered for three years before her breast cancer was finally diagnosed

Cancer: Miriame struggles with cervical cancer
The financial burden of cancer treatment has exhausted Miriame's savings and forced her daughter to leave school

Cancer: Harmful sunlight causes Noemia's hardship
Over-exposure to the sun's harmful rays has led to skin cancer on Noemia's legs. It could have been prevented by simply keeping out of direct sunlight

Diabetes: Zahida suffers impact of late treatment
Late diagnosis and treatment cost Zahida, 65, severely, with one of her legs amputated due to serious complications from diabetes

Hearing impairment: Early detection averts hearing loss for Marinah
Six-year-old Marinah escapes serious hearing damage thanks to inexpensive and simple tests and treatment

Hearing impairment: Luciano and Cinthia's stories
Three-year-old Luciano has permanent hearing loss because his mother developed rubella infection while she was pregnant with him. Cinthia, 21, lost much of her hearing when she had meningitis at the age of 18 months

Obesity: Malri's childhood clouded by risks of disease
As an obese child, five-year-old Malri faces the risk of a number of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers

Stroke: Roberto survives on family support
Neglect of high blood pressure, and Roberto's drinking and smoking habits led to three strokes, making him dependent on his family for basic needs