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WHO says big gains on tropical diseases

dpa logodpa 18/04/2017

Over the past 10 years, millions of people have been rescued from disability and poverty, thanks to WHO's program to focus on long-neglected illnesses.

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

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.

"Over the past 10 years, millions of people have been rescued from disability and poverty, thanks to one of the most effective global partnerships in modern public health," WHO director general Margaret Chan said in a statement.

Trachoma is no longer a public health problem in Mexico, Morocco and Oman.

Guinea-worm disease, which is transmitted through drinking water, is now nearly eradicated on a global scale, the WHO said.

Cases of sleeping sickness have been reduced from 37,000 in 1999 to less than 3,000 in 2015, while humans are now very rarely infected with rabies in the Americas.

Medicines against neglected tropical diseases have been administered on a large scale over recent years.

For example, more than half a billion people have received preventive treatment against elephantiasis, a worm disease that can cause very large swellings in the legs and genitals.

However, the agency warned that further successes will depend on whether more people will get access to clean water and sanitation.

An estimated 2.4 billion people currently lack toilets, resulting in the spread of diseases.

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