With your help, University of Sussex will eliminate the neglected tropical disease Podoconiosis (or Podo) in our lifetimes. By turning our world-class research into practical action, we can reach millions of people who have never accessed healthcare before and give some of the most vulnerable people in the world their lives back.
A hidden emergency has been unfolding – but together, we can stop it from progressing. Podo is a form of elephantiasis, causing devastating swelling in the legs and feet. Even though most people have never heard of this disease, it has been identified in 25 countries across Central and South America, Asia and Africa. In Ethiopia, where most of our work has focused, it is more common than HIV, tuberculosis or malaria and affects at least 3 million people.
Yet it only costs around £15 a year to treat someone with podo, and the treatment is incredibly effective. It just involves washing the patient's feet in clean water, drying them, applying an emollient and bandaging the swollen area. They are then given shoes and told to keep moving their legs to improve circulation. There is no need for expensive medication or surgery. It really is that simple. The main reason people are still suffering is because they have not been educated about the disease and cannot afford basic materials like clean water or shoes.
In fact, thanks to research carried out at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) and our local partners in the field, the only real barriers to eliminating podo are now economic. We believe it is an injustice for people to continue suffering in silence when treatment is so simple and effective. Now we need to take steps towards eliminating this disease - first in Ethiopia and then across the world - by distributing treatment materials, and educating rural communities on preventative measures.
100% of your donation will go directly towards this work.
Gail Davey - Professor of Global Health Epidemiology, BSMS
Biruk Kebede - General Manager, NaPAN
Gharib Murbe - Project Coordinator, Preventing Podo
National Podoconiosis Action Network (NaPAN)
Action on Podoconiosis Association (APA)
Catholic Church, Nekemte & Wollega Dioceses
Mossy Foot Project
International Orthodox Christian Charities
Mekane Yesus - Ethiopian Evangelical Church
Podo costs Ethiopia an estimated $208 million per year
Yet even this figure is overshadowed by the scale of human suffering. In Ethiopia alone, almost half of the population are at risk from the disease. Yet despite the scale and severity of podo, most people have never heard of it. This is largely because it affects some of the poorest, most voiceless communities in the world: subsistence farmers, living below the poverty line and barely producing enough food to survive on.
As you can see below, podo causes debilitating swelling in the legs and feet of its sufferers, who eventually become unable to walk. This is especially tragic for farmers, who can no longer work or support their family.
Adding to this, many people mistakenly assume the disease is contagious, or even caused by supernatural forces. Sadly this means patients endure a terrible stigma on a daily basis. They are frequently excluded from religious meetings, weddings and other community gatherings. Children suffering from the disease are often bullied and prevented from attending school. In many cases patients become ostracised from their own family and husbands or wives are forced to live on their own.
Podo is entirely preventable and treatable
Yet in reality, podo is a preventable and treatable form of elephantiasis. It is not infectious or contagious. Even the most severe cases can be treated. Research at BSMS has proven that it is actually triggered by many years of barefoot contact with mineral irritants in volcanic soils. It has even been suggested that the disease occurred in parts of Europe before wearing shoes became the norm.
Even though we now know how to treat and prevent the disease, the fact that most of those affected are subsistence farmers already living below the poverty line means they cannot afford the shoes or inexpensive treatment supplies they need to get better.
How we can help:
We’re not waiting for a miracle cure, we already know what works
BSMS is the global hub for podoconiosis research. In spite of the devastating medical, social and financial effect podo has on sufferer’s lives, research conducted here has proven that a simple hygiene and foot care regime can give people their lives back. This involves washing feet in clean water, drying them, applying an emollient and bandaging the swollen area. The process is then followed by elevation and movement of the feet to improve circulation. To ensure the disease does not return, the patient is also given specially made shoes that fit around their enlarged feet.
There is no expensive medication or surgery. It really is that simple!
In fact, the treatment is so easy to administer that it only costs around £15 per year, per person. And once someone understands the process, they can pass it on to other people who are affected.
We just need your help to spread this message and supplies across rural Ethiopia
How your support will change lives:
Be part of something truly remarkable
To have uncovered the scale of this emergency and stopped the disease from occurring in a single generation would be an incredible acheivement.
It only costs around £15 a year to help a podo patient get their life back, and ensure their community is educated on how to stop the disease from recurring in the future.
That means even small donations have a huge impact and we are very grateful for whatever you feel you can help with.
There are many diseases we don’t yet have the answers for. This one we do.
Thank you for helping to stamp out podo