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WHO: More effort needed to alleviate poverty in fight against tropical diseases

Bet_Noire/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The World Health Organization says efforts must be undertaken to alleviate poverty around the world if the progress made in battling tropical diseases is to continue.

In 2015 alone, the agency says that one billion people received treatment for neglected tropical diseases. WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan called the efforts part of the observed "record-breaking progress towards bringing ancient scourges like sleeping sickness and elephantiasis to their knees."

Millions of people, she added, have been saved from poverty and disability as a result of "one of the most effective global partnerships in modern public health."

A group of global partners agreed to fight neglected tropical diseases together in 2007. In that time, local and international partners have worked with ministries of health in affected countries to "deliver quality-assured medicines, and provide people with care and long-term management," WHO says.

Still, a report released Wednesday says more still must be done.

"Further gains in the fight against NTD's will depend on wider progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals," said Dr. Dirk Engels, Director of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases. The WHO says 2.4 billion people worldwide lack basic sanitation facilities and 660 million drink water from "unimproved sources."

Recent concern over diseases like the Zika virus and Chikungunya have re-energized the effort to fight tropical diseases.

The WHO notes that NTD's impact hundreds of millions of people in the poorest parts of the world. The formerly prevalent diseases are now restricted to tropical regions with unsafe water, poor hygiene and sanitation, and poor housing conditions.

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