In a striking and emotional moment, Abhishek Bachchan, who has been named the first END7 Campaign Ambassador in India by The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (Global Network), poured water over the feet of an elderly man suffering from lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis), a debilitating and disfiguring neglected tropical disease (NTD), at the Banamalipur Resource Centre run by Church's Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) just outside of Bhubaneswar in Orissa, India. The eastern state of Orissa has one of the highest burdens of NTDs in the country.
Abhishek met with women and men suffering from lymphatic filariasis. These patients shared heartbreaking stories with him, including how the stigma and shame associated with the disease's massive swelling prevented them or their children from marrying, securing employment and socializing freely within their own communities. He also witnessed first-hand various disease management and disability prevention techniques, including washing, drying, exercise, massage, and elevation of the limbs, to alleviate some of the suffering.
"We have a staggering proportion of fellow Indians who are infected by or at risk of contracting at least one NTD," said the 'Dhoom' actor and added, "My first site visit with END7 has been a deeply moving, personal experience that allowed me to understand how these diseases can devastate entire families through the pain and stigma they cause," he continued.
Mr Bachchan will play a key role in drawing attention to NTDs as an achievable health priority for India, educating the public about the impact of NTDs and the importance of public participation in free NTD treatment programs, whilst also encouraging national and state level policymakers to continue making the cost-effective investment in NTD programs."We are making good progress and have free, safe treatments available. But we must build greater momentum and every Indian should do their part to help make defeating NTDs by 2020 our country's next big health success story," he stated.
Lymphatic filariasis, along with other NTDs, can be prevented with a yearly dose of albendazole or DEC. END7 is the first and only global public awareness campaign dedicated to controlling and eliminating the seven most common NTDs by 2020. It was launched in 2012 by the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, an advocacy initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute.