April 2 Bill Gates, the World Bank and other
donors are stepping up efforts to fight neglected tropical
diseases in Africa and other low-income regions with a $240
million injection of new funding.
The new money follows a pledge by 13 drugmakers two years
ago to donate medicines to tackle 10 parasitic and bacterial
infections - such as river blindness, Guinea worm and sleeping
sickness - that threaten one in six people worldwide.
Microsoft founder Gates and international agencies
announced the new funding at a meeting in Paris on Wednesday,
where experts gave a positive update on advances to date.
Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health
Organisation, said large-scale drug donations had already led to
"Together with the governments of endemic countries, we are
fast approaching the goal of controlling or eliminating many of
these ancient causes of human misery," she said.
There is still more to do, and $120 million of the new money
will be channelled into a collaboration to combat
soil-transmitted helminths, a group of intestinal worms that are
among the most common infections in children living in poverty.
The new collaboration includes $50 million from the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation and $50 million from the Children's
Investment Fund Foundation.
In addition, the World Bank Group is committing $120 million
to support the fight against neglected diseases, including
support for school-based deworming programmes.
Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck,
Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Bayer
and others are involved in the drug donation initiative.
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Greg Mahlich)