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WHO welcomes US funding for neglected tropical diseases

Statement by WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan

20 February 2008

I warmly welcome the initiative, announced today by United States President George W. Bush, to vastly increase funding for the integrated treatment of seven of the most important neglected tropical diseases: lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, blinding trachoma, onchocerciasis, and three soil-transmitted helminthiases. These are blinding, deforming, and debilitating diseases that affect the poorest of the poor. An intensified attack on these diseases delivers a blow against the poverty of millions of people.

I further welcome the ambition behind this enhanced commitment: to reduce dramatically and eventually control and eliminate diseases that have caused misery and sapped productivity since antiquity. The time is ripe for ambitious initiatives like the one announced today.

WHO and its multiple partners, including USAID, have established a firm foundation for moving forward with unprecedented speed – and the best-yet prospects for success. Highly effective drugs are available, and many are being donated by industry in large quantities. Strategies for integrated delivery have been devised, streamlining operational requirements and reducing costs. Moreover, the drugs are safe and simple to administer and all at-risk populations can be treated – an approach to mass prevention similar to that of childhood immunization. Efforts to increase coverage can begin immediately.

I welcome the challenge, made by President Bush today, for other donors to complement this US commitment of US$ 350 million over five years to treat these diseases.

For more information, please contact:

Emma Ross
Communications Department
WHO, Geneva
Tel.: + 41 22 791 1492
Mobile: + 41 79 475 5534