A disease is rare when it affects fewer than 1 in 2,000 people.

70% of rare diseases
start in childhood

More than 6000 rare diseases
are identified.

72% of rare diseases
are genetic

1 out of 5 cancers
is rare

What are the universal challenges faced by those living with a rare disease?

  • The lack of scientific knowledge and quality information on the disease often results in a delay in diagnosis.
  • The need for appropriate quality health care engenders inequalities and difficulties in access to treatment and care. This often results in heavy social and financial burdens on patients.
  • Owing to the broad diversity of disorders and relatively common symptoms which can hide underlying rare diseases, initial misdiagnosis is common. In addition, symptoms differ not only from disease to disease, but also from patient to patient suffering from the same disease.
  • Research needs to be international to ensure that experts, researchers and clinicians are connected

Rare diseases – by the numbers


people with rare diseases

3.5 – 5.9%

of the population


are genetic diseases

Characteristics of rare diseases


Over 6000 rare diseases are characterised by a broad diversity of disorders and symptoms that vary not only from disease to disease but also from patient to patient suffering from the same disease.

72% of the diseases are genetic and almost 1 out of 5 cancers is rare.

Relatively common symptoms can hide underlying rare diseases leading to misdiagnosis and delaying treatment. Quintessentially disabling, the patients quality of life is affected by the lack or loss of autonomy due to the chronic, progressive, degenerative, and frequently life-threatening aspects of the disease.

The fact that there are often no existing effective cures adds to the high level of pain and suffering endured by patients and their families.

How can Rare Disease Day make a difference?


Rare Disease Day raises awareness for the 300 million people living with rare disease around the world and their families and carers.

The long-term cause of the Rare Disease Day campaign is to achieve equitable access to diagnosis, treatment, health and social care and social opportunity for people affected by a rare disease.

Important progress continues to be made with joint international advocacy efforts for universal health coverage (UHC), part the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) to advocate for equitable health systems that meet the needs of people affected by rare diseases in order to leave no one behind.

Rare Disease Day is the opportunity to advocate for rare diseases as a human rights priority at local, national and international level as we work towards a more inclusive society.

Rare Disease Day is a great example of how progress continues to be made, with events being held worldwide each year. Beginning in 2008, when events took place in just 18 countries, Rare Disease Day has taken place every year since, with events being held in over 100 countries in 2023.

Reza’s Story


Thirteen-year-old Reza lives in Iran with his family, and he is also living with a rare disease called Cystinosis. Within the past century, Cystinosis has… Continue reading Reza’s Story

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Nitzia’s Story

Turner syndrome

As a child, Nitzia attended medical appointments for nine years across four different hospitals before she was finally diagnosed with Turner syndrome.

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Jelena’s Story

Cystic Fibrosis

Jelena finds it difficult to breathe as her lungs do not function properly. Unlike someone who has a more common condition, such as asthma, Jelena… Continue reading Jelena’s Story

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Shambhavi’s Story

Alagille syndrome

Frequent visits to doctors and hospitals form many of Shambhvai’s earliest memories. To her frustration, she kept being treated for individual symptoms as opposed to… Continue reading Shambhavi’s Story

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Zixuan’s Story

Mucopolysaccharidosis type 1

Zixuan was two years old when her family started the long process of trying to find a medical diagnosis for her increasing array of symptoms.… Continue reading Zixuan’s Story

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Tshepiso Gloria’s Story

Von Willebrand’s Disease

For over twenty years Tshepiso Gloria coped with a bleeding disorder before eventually being diagnosed. She went from doctor to doctor, hospital to hospital and… Continue reading Tshepiso Gloria’s Story

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Wafic’s Story

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Soon after Wafic from Lebanon was born, his parents realised something did not seem quite right. After having spent a worrying few months in hospital… Continue reading Wafic’s Story

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Syafiq’s Story

Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia (HED)

I am Syafiq from Malaysia and I am living with Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia (HED). I love hiking in the jungle and jogging (which previously I… Continue reading Syafiq’s Story

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Regina’s Story


Sou mãe de 3 meninos, 2 deles com uma doença rara chamada MUCOPOLISSACARIDOSE Tipo VI. Meu mais velho, Nilton faleceu aos 6 anos devido à… Continue reading Regina’s Story

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Vasco’s Story

Gaucher Disease

6-year-old Vasco from Peru loves to play, paint, dance and read. But most of all, he loves spending time with his family. It took three… Continue reading Vasco’s Story

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Nada’s Story

Epidermolysis Bullosa

22-year-old Nada, whose life has been impacted by a rare disease that makes it difficult for her to move, read and swallow, has got a… Continue reading Nada’s Story

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Taka’s Story

Retinitis Pigmentosa

Hi! My name is Taka, and I’m 36 years old from Japan. I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare eye disease, when I was… Continue reading Taka’s Story

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Angelina’s story

Calcium/calmodulin dependent serine protein kinase (CASK)

My 5-year-old daughter, Angelina, is living with CASK-gene related disorders – more precisely, she is living with an X-linked intellectual disability, microcephaly with pontine and… Continue reading Angelina’s story

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Harvey’s story

Spinal Muscular Atrophy

My son Harvey has a rare condition; SMA, in full Spinal muscular atrophy type 1, which is the more severe type of the disease. Harvey’s… Continue reading Harvey’s story

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JK’s story

Osteogenesis Imperfecta

My name is Jon-Kristian, but you can call me JK! I am 12-years-old and I live in Norway with my family. I am living with… Continue reading JK’s story

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Tristan’s story

Sickle cell anemia

Hello everyone! My name is Tristan from the United States and I am living with Sickle cell anemia. My passion in life is fashion, design,… Continue reading Tristan’s story

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