Funds to help fight diseases


"WHO has observed record-breaking progress towards bringing ancient scourges like sleeping sickness and elephantiasis to their knees", Chan said.

Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates said: " United Kingdom aid and Britain's world-leading research institutions are playing a major role in protecting the world's poorest people from neglected tropical diseases and enabling them to live healthier, more prosperous lives.

In 2007, the World Health Organization and a group of global partners devised a strategy for better tackling and controlling NTDs. Drug companies must increase donations of existing treatments to make them more accessible, World Health Organization said in its report released on Wednesday.

The report said that as global partners consider the victories against NTDs, they also must recalibrate their goals for 2020 and 2030, with a focus on animal-human interactions, vector-borne diseases (including Zika) and a One Health approach to surveying and monitoring NTDs.

While recognizing that more remains to be done before these bad diseases are eliminated, Chan said when that goal is achieved "it will be truly, truly incredible". For example, more than half a billion people have received preventive treatment against elephantiasis. In its most severe (visceral) form, it attacks the internal organs. "There is no way out", said Engel. In 2015, for instance, elimination targets were achieved in 82% of India sub-districts, 97% of Bangladesh sub-districts, and 100% of Nepal.

"What has contributed enormously to that progress was the help we have received from the private sector", said Engels, noting that pharmaceutical companies donated medicines to the cause. "I hope in the next few years, we will be able to fill in those gaps".

Alan Fenwick, a professor of tropical parasitology at Imperial College London, said huge progress had been made in treating and preventing such diseases.

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Indeed, Gates told BBC News several major achievements in recent years in ensuring that these tropical diseases are eliminated.

Bill Gates also noted that guinea worm condition is nearly entirely annihilated since a year ago specialists registered only 25 cases.

At that conference, global partners agreed to eradicate 10 of the most common NTDs (including guinea worm, river blindness, and trachoma) by 2020, and since then, pharmaceutical companies have donated seven billion treatments towards those efforts.

"Some countries are lagging a bit behind". Mexico, Morocco and Oman have eliminated it as a public health problem, according to the WHO.

The class of these illnesses include diseases such as dengue, rabies, trachoma, Buruli ulcer, yaws, leprosy, human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease), schistosomiasis (larval worm infection) etc.

However, the agency warned that further successes will depend on whether more people will get access to clean water and sanitation. Poor people living in remote, rural areas, urban slums, or conflict zones are most at risk.

The World Health Organization said improving water and sanitation for 2.4 billion people globally who lack these basic facilities was key to making further progress in the fight against neglected tropical diseases. One in six people, mainly from poor communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America, suffer from at least one of the 18 listed NTDs annually.