The disease: Sleeping sickness

Sleeping sickness or human trypanosomiasis only occurs in Africa. An estimated 55 million Africans run the risk of infection, i.e. those living in any of the 36 countries south of the Sahara where the disease is prevalent.

Sleeping sickness is transmitted by the tsetse fly. This insect, about 1 cm long, has an extremely painful bite which leaves a red mark on the skin. Without treatment the disease is fatal in from one to three years, depending on the variant. The WHO puts the number of people suffering from sleeping sickness at around 300,000. In 1996, 150,000 people died of the disease and 30,000 new cases were recorded. The actual figures are probably much higher, since recording tends to be patchy and various areas are made inaccessible by war.