What is visceral leishmaniasis

Visceral leishmaniasis (also known as kala-azar) is caused by infection with leishmania parasites through bites of infected sand flies that breed in and around homes or farms. If visceral leishmaniasis (VL) progresses, it attacks the immune system and affects the bone marrow and internal organs (including enlargement and impaired function of the spleen and liver), as well as causing irregular bouts of fever, substantial weight loss, and anaemia. Left untreated, visceral leishmaniasis can have a fatality rate as high as 100% within two years. The disease is linked to poverty and environmental changes.

People affected by visceral leishmaniasis

27% decrease in cases in Indian subcontinent from 2015 to 2016 24,029 cases reported in 2015

WHO NTD roadmap targets for visceral leishmaniasis

The World Health Organization’s roadmap on NTDs set out a comprehensive plan for the control, elimination and eradication of various neglected tropical diseases by 2020, including visceral leishmaniasis.

Visceral leishmaniasis target: Regional elimination by 2020

  • Regional elimination on the Indian subcontinent by 2020
  • Achieve 100% case detection and treatment

Number of visceral leishmaniasis cases reported by country

Number of visceral leishmaniasis cases reported by year


  • Data is provided by the World Health Organization
  • Photo: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation / Prashant Panjiar