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WHO: major progress in fighting tropical diseases

Brandon Conradis
April 19, 2017

The World Health Organization published a new report extolling efforts made to combat tropical diseases. Millions of people have received treatment for previously neglected scourges.

Indonesien Dengue Fieber Patient im Krankenhaus
Image: Getty Images/D. Ardian

A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) hailed what it calls "remarkable achievements in tackling neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)" over the past decade, according to a press statement released on Tuesday.

"WHO has observed record-breaking progress towards bringing ancient scourges like sleeping sickness and elephantiasis to their knees," said the organization's director-general, Dr. Margaret Chen. "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."

According to the report, strong political support, medical donations and improvement in living conditions have allowed more people than ever before to be treated for NTDs.

Doctor fights neglected tropical diseases

Substantial gains

The report said some 1 billion people have been treated for at least one NTD in 2015 alone. Among the NTDs for which people have received treatment are onchocerciasis (river blindness) and lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis).

WHO also said several diseases were close to being eradicated. Human cases of Guinea-worm disease and African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) were substantially reduced in 2015, while trachoma - the world's main infectious cause of blindness - had been eliminated as a public health problem in Mexico, Morocco and Oman.

Nonetheless, the report also points out the need to improve responses in other areas.

"Further gains in the fight against neglected tropical diseases will depend on wider progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals," said Dr. Dirk Engels of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases.