The economic burden of visceral leishmaniasis for households in Nepal

S Rijal, S Koirala, P Van der Stuyft, M Boelaert
Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 2006, 100 (9): 838-41
Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) affects persons from the lowest socioeconomic strata of the community, but its economic impact is not precisely known. An exploratory survey to document the economic costs of VL to households was conducted in an endemic focus in eastern Nepal. Data were collected from the 20 households in this cluster. Cases of VL over the last 3 years were elicited and information on direct and indirect costs incurred due to the disease as well as income of the households over the last year was estimated. It was reported that 15.0% (16/107) of the residents had suffered from VL and that almost all of the patients had preferred, in the first instance, to visit the private services or local faith healers instead of visiting the local public health facility. Average total costs incurred per episode of VL were above the median annual per capita income, and six of the seven affected households either had to sell part of their livestock or to take a loan to cover the costs. Direct costs consisted of 53% of the total cost, with 75% of this cost incurred before the patients actually received any treatment for VL. This study demonstrates how VL can lead to catastrophic expenditure for affected households.

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