From this Associated Press article that we found at the Guardian, writer Colleen Barry details the WHO comments and tells us of more pledges of help from pharmaceutical companies.
WHO identified 17 diseases and disease groups present in 149 countries one-third of the 2.7 billion people living on less than $2 a day. Thirty countries have six or more of the diseases. In all, more than one-third of the 2.7 billion people living on less than $2 a day are affected.
"They cause massive but hidden and silent suffering, and frequently kill, but not in the numbers comparable to the deaths caused by HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis or malaria," said WHO director general Margaret Chan.
Still, Chan said that the diseases take a serious toll that serves to "anchor large populations in poverty."
Two of the diseases, onchocerciasis, known as river blindness, and trachoma, a bacterial eye infection, cause blindness. Leprosy and lymphatic filariasis, or elephantiasis, leave victims deformed, hamper productivity and normal social interaction, Chan said. Sleeping sickness, or human African trypanosomiasis, debilitates before it kills. Left untreated, rabies is fatal.
Novartis has renewed a commitment to donate drugs to treat leprosy, while GlaxoSmithKline said it would expand donations of a drug to treat worm infections and Sanofi-Aventis will continue its support to help eliminate sleeping sickness and other illness.
Also active in the fight are Bayer, Eisai and Johnson & Johnson, WHO said.