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Trop Med Int Health. 2009 Jun;14(6):639-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3156.2009.02279.x. Epub 2009 Apr 20.

The poorest of the poor: a poverty appraisal of households affected by visceral leishmaniasis in Bihar, India.

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  • 1Department of Public Health, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium.



To provide data about wealth distribution in visceral leishmaniasis (VL)-affected communities compared to that of the general population of Bihar State, India.


After extensive disease risk mapping, 16 clusters with high VL transmission were selected in Bihar. An exhaustive census of all households in the clusters was conducted and socio-economic household characteristics were documented by questionnaire. Data on the general Bihar population taken from the National Family Health Survey of India were used for comparison. An asset index was developed based on Principal Components Analysis and the distribution of this asset index for the VL communities was compared with that of the general population of Bihar.


83% of households in communities with high VL attack rates belonged to the two lowest quintiles of the Bihar wealth distribution. All socio-economic indicators showed significantly lower wealth for those households.


Visceral leishmaniasis clearly affects the poorest of the poor in India. They are most vulnerable, as this vector-born disease is linked to poor housing and unhealthy habitats. The disease leads the affected households to more destitution because of its impact on household income and wealth. Support for the present VL elimination initiative is important in the fight against poverty.

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