Though significant progress has been made in tackling diseases that blinded, disabled and disfigured millions of poor in tropical areas each year, drug companies needed to step up donations of medicines, the World Health Organization (WHO) said at Global Partners Meeting, yesterday.
It added that 1 billion people mostly in Asia, Africa and Latin America were still treated each year for at least one of 18 neglected tropical diseases known as NTDs.
The WHO warned that dengue, onchocerciasis (river blindness), and sleeping sickness were among those carried by mosquitoes or flies that were spreading from rural areas to urban slums.
"There is no group of diseases that is so intimately linked to poverty," Dr Dirk Engels, director of WHO's department of control of neglected tropic diseases, told a news briefing.
"A number of companies have accompanied us in the scaling up by making more medicines available. Is that enough? No, there are still diseases that are neglected and we still have problems with access to basic medicines," he said.
WHO named GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Sanofi among major donors.
New products need an access plan for patients "because just counting on the commercial mechanisms won't work", Engels said.
"By 2030, (neglected tropical) diseases could be part of history," Engels said. "In general, I can say there is a lot of progress that is being made."
Poor people living mostly in remote, rural areas, urban slums, and conflict zones were at risk from these diseases due to unsafe water, inadequate hygiene and sanitation, and poor housing conditions.?
A group of global partners convened by the WHO in 2007, agreed to tackle neglected tropical diseases together and a year later, the WHO published its Global Plan to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases. Around the same time partner organisations were taken on board to help achieve the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases.
"That combination has been extremely powerful and constructive," said Dr Julie Jacobson, an expert in the field and a representative of the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, CNN reported.