In sight, but out of mind

WHO raises concerns about hazards posed by the 'not so talked about' diseases

Published: Monday 15 April 2002

around a billion people in the developing world are victims of so-called 'neglected' diseases, claim officials of the World Health Organisation (who). According to them, as these diseases are not out-and-out killers they hardly receive any attention and international funding, which are a must to tackle them effectively. "They may not be major killers but they are responsible for terrible disabilities," said Maria Neira, director of the who's department of communicable diseases.

The world has pledged some us $2 billion to a global campaign aimed at fighting aids, tuberculosis and malaria. Just a fraction of this amount could help make significant headway against 'neglected' horrors such as Buruli ulcer, elephantiasis and dengue fever. All these diseases are rife in tropical parts of Africa and India.

Neira said that who was hoping to raise around US$100 million over the next five years to fight a battle against these 'neglected' diseases. "This is not a lot of money. But it would make a significant impact because for many of the diseases we have very cheap forms of treatment," said Neira. For example, lymphatic filariasis, which affects more than 40 million people in Africa, India and across South Asia and the US, can be prevented by just taking two pills once a year.

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