World Health Organization says big gains on tropical diseases

Britain is to double its contribution on tropical disease

Britain is to double its contribution on tropical disease

United Kingdom announces a doubling of support to fight Neglected Tropical Diseases, such as trachoma, Guinea worm and river blindness, over the next 5 years.

In 2007, the World Health Organization and a group of global partners devised a strategy for better tackling and controlling NTDs.

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

Several tropical diseases have almost been eradicated and treatment has been vastly expanded in the decade since the World Health Organisation launched a plan to fight long-neglected illnesses.

"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.

NTDs affect 1.4 billion people in the poorest parts of the world.

In addition, it is expected to help wipe out visceral leishmaniasis in Asia, a potentially fatal disease caused by infected sand flies that destroy internal organs. "There is no way out", said Engel.

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, said the joint approach will "build on the tremendous progress made to date". "And the aim was to have less than one case in 10,000 people at the subdistrict level, which is a tough target".

"This is a result that we had not anticipated a few years back", he said.

"I talked to the President about the critical role the USA has played in the great progress on HIV, malaria and reproductive health - and in terms of how strong health systems can stop pandemics".

Some 170,000 people die from one of the illnesses every year, but their biggest impact is disabling their sufferers.

He added: "There are quite a number of new medicines and diagnostics in the pipeline, which may actually further change the perspective for these neglected tropical diseases and hopefully allow us to go further towards eliminating or near eliminating these diseases by 2030".

Only 25 human cases of Guinea-worm disease were reported in 2016, putting eradication within reach; sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis) fell from 37,000 new cases in 1999 to well under 3,000 cases in 2015; and rabies deaths was brought down to in the Americas in 2015, bringing the region close to its target of eliminating rabies in humans.

Lymphatic filariasis: Infection transmitted by mosquitoes causing abnormal enlargement of limbs and genitals from adult worms inhabiting and reproducing in the lymphatic system.

"Some countries are lagging a bit behind".

"Some of these diseases are on track to be done by 2020, some by 2025, some will take longer than that".

The UN agency says it has been working with pharmaceutical companies and nongovernmental organisations to fight illnesses such as trachoma, a bacterial disease that is the world's main cause of blindness from infection.

"Poor people living in remote, rural areas, urban slums or conflict zones are most at risk", said the report.

Image: Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan speak during a news conference on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in Geneva, Switzerland, April 18, 2017.

Edridah Muheki Tukahebwa, NTD program manager in Uganda's Ministry of Health, told a packed audience attending the Gates event that her country was leading in the elimination of NTDs in Africa, especially in Onchocerciasis or river blindness.

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