Chagas, a disease often described as being both silent and silenced, affects some 6 million people in the world, mostly from predominantly poor and vulnerable populations. The disease causes 12,000 deaths a year and is a major public health problem in endemic countries in Latin America and in countries that receive migrants from those areas. The most surprising aspect of the problem is that 99% of those affected are not being treated.
Recent studies have shown that—while it is essential to develop new protocols, diagnostic tools and drugs for Chagas disease—it is nonetheless possible to treat patients with the tools currently available and that treatment is recommended.
The central aim of the Global Chagas Disease Coalition is to prioritise the diagnosis and treatment of Chagas disease. To achieve this goal we need to ensure the political commitment of the governments of affected countries, particularly those in Latin America, to the task of defining comprehensive strategies to tackle the problem.
The Global Chagas Disease Coalition is an open, ambitious and collaborative alliance in which—by sharing our experience, knowledge and capacity for action—we hope to achieve the goal of alleviating the human suffering caused by Chagas disease and, ultimately, controlling the disease once and for all.
Since the 1990s, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and local health authorities in endemic countries have made great progress in strengthening control programmes and reducing disease transmission.
It is a good moment, progress in the latest years give us hope to think that it is possible to advance. However, the challenges that lie ahead will require a coordinated effort involving all the non-governmental actors in the fight against this disease (academia, civil society, non-governmental organisations and the private sector) together with national and local governments in order to implement new interventions aimed at reducing the global impact of the disease.
Many of these actors are already working on initiatives related to Chagas disease. However, individual initiatives or a piecemeal approach can give rise to a variety of projects with different scopes and objectives. A coalition is created aiming at better coordination and to give Chagas disease greater prominence on the political agenda—a position more consistent with the real impact of this disease on the lives of those affected and with the public health and financial burden it imposes in the countries where the disease is endemic.