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Project December 31, 2019

Stroke Is a Global Epidemic


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(From left) Lorraine Chishimba, Allison Navis (a visiting doctor from the US), Deanna Saylor, and Stanley Zimba examine CT scans of UTH patients. Image by Oliver Staley/ Quartz. Zambia, 2019.

Stroke is the world's second most-fatal disease: It kills six million annually and leaves millions more disabled. While stroke in rich countries has declined since 1980, the incidence has more than doubled in low- and middle-income countries, where 86% of all stroke fatalities take place.

This problem is particularly acute in sub-Saharan Africa, which suffers from a crippling lack of trained neurologists who can diagnose strokes. Although communicable diseases like HIV, malaria, and Ebola command the attention of the media and aid organizations, stroke in Africa is a growing and neglected crisis that, if unchecked, will have a greater toll.

In Zambia, there are two neurologists in a country of 18 million. One of them, Harvard-trained Omar Siddiqi, has launched a pilot program to train Zambian doctors to become neurologists. The plan is to seed Zambia with doctors trained to diagnose and treat stroke, and who then can train the next generation neurologists themselves.