WHO and key partners are meeting on Thursday and Friday to demonstrate an unprecedented commitment to combat the so-called neglected tropical diseases.
This commitment comes from political leaders and ministries of health in affected countries, from development agencies and banks, foundations, scientists, and some of the world?s leading pharmaceutical companies.
Most of the neglected diseases are caused by parasites that thrive in impoverished settings, where water supply, sanitation, and housing are poor. Apart from this strong link to poverty, the diseases form a group because they permanently deform and disable large numbers of poor people, trapping them in poverty.
Worldwide, an estimated 1 billion people ? one sixth of the world?s population ? are affected by one or more of these diseases. Recent evidence of their severe impact on socioeconomic development has spurred unprecedented commitment to reduce this burden. Control of these diseases is now considered part of the global drive to reduce poverty.
?This event marks a turning point in the long and notorious history of some of humanity?s oldest diseases,? the WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, said in her opening address. ?The burden imposed by these diseases, measured in terms of human misery alone, is unacceptable. We are committed to take action.?