This Sunday 20th August marks World Mosquito Day.

The day is recognised worldwide to celebrate the ground-breaking discovery that mosquitoes spread malaria, by Dr Ronald Ross 120 years ago. We thought it would be fitting to talk about how mosquito bites also cause lymphatic filariasis (LF) and what you can do to help prevent this life-changing disease.

Our work of breaking down the prejudice of leprosy and promoting health education in India, Bangladesh and Mozambique, has led us to carry out the same work with LF affected people in these countries too.

Mosquitoes and LF

According to the World Health Organisation, over 947 million people are at risk of being infected by lymphatic filariasis (LF) in 54 countries worldwide. Over 120 million people are currently infected, with about 40 million incapacitated by the disease.

LF is caused by an infection of very small worm-like parasites which multiply into millions and infect the bloodstream over the course of a few years. These parasites are found in certain types of mosquitoes and once a human is bitten, the parasites are deposited on the skin from which they can enter the body very easily.

Once in the bloodstream, the infection can cause mass swelling of the arms and legs known as elephantiasis. While the disease leads to physical deformities, it also plays a major role in affecting both the mental health and social status of those who are afflicted with the disease.

Poverty and Prejudice

Both leprosy and LF are a cause and consequence of extreme poverty. With a lack of access to health education and services, those who are affected by this disease do not know how to prevent, treat or manage their symptoms.

In the poorest communities, people affected by LF are at greater risk of falling even further below the poverty line, by missing out on days of work which inevitably affects their monthly household income.

There is also a huge prejudice associated with LF. While governments provide very little or no support for people with the disease, those who are affected often find themselves further marginalised by their families or communities.

Manjulatha Behera from India knows all too well about prejudice. As a person who has been affected by both leprosy and LF, Manjulatha has borne the brunt of being isolated.

Her mother-in-law stated that she was cursed and now Manjulatha is worried that if her medical diagnoses were to become known to her community, it would prevent her daughters from finding suitable husbands.

Read Manjulatha's story

How we help

Raising the level of health education knowledge is essential to the work we do. Our work in India, Bangladesh and Mozambique has seen an increase in access to health education in rural areas of these countries. We have trained people with leprosy and LF how to manage these diseases and how to prevent the spread of infection.

Our health education vans have travelled to the remotest parts of Northern India and taught over 10 million people how to recognise the symptoms of leprosy and LF early on.

Our projects have also contributed to empowering women. By training females to teach and practise healthcare education, we help elevate the status of women in the poorest and most unequal regions.

What you can do

On World Mosquito day this Sunday, we urge you to spread the word on the life-changing diseases that mosquitoes can bring, in particular that of lymphatic filariasis.

By raising awareness through social media activities, attending events or even donating, you will be making a huge difference to people’s lives.

Donate now