Nuclear Weapons and Neglected Diseases: The “Ten-Thousand-to-One Gap”

Together, the world’s eight acknowledged nuclear powers—the United States (US), Russia, United Kingdom (UK), France, China, India, Pakistan, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)—have amassed an arsenal of almost 30,000 nuclear weapons since 1945. In addition, Israel is believed to be a nuclear power while Iran (and possibly Syria as well) is also suspected of developing nuclear weapons. Despite the technological sophistication that has enabled the 11 nuclear weapons states to produce and deliver nuclear bombs, most of these nations simultaneously also suffer from high internal rates of poverty and endemic neglected diseases. They include high prevalence rates of neglected tropical diseases in India, China, Pakistan, Iran, and Syria, and related neglected infections of poverty in the US and Europe. Indeed, the 11 nuclear weapons states together account for up to one-half of the global disease burden from all neglected diseases. However, for a tiny fraction (less than 1/10,000th) of the costs of producing and maintaining a nuclear arsenal the 11 nuclear powers could eliminate most of their neglected diseases and engage in joint neglected disease research and development efforts that help to reduce international tensions and promote world peace.

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