UPDATE 1-Gates backs Big Pharma push to wipe out tropical diseases
* Bill Gates, UK, Belgium commit funds to tackle tropical diseases
* Diseases of the poor disfigure, disable and sometimes kill
* World Bank's Jim Kim calls them "diseases of neglected people"
* Jimmy Carter says "we are close to wiping out" Guinea worm (Recasts with Gates, Carter quotes, pledges from WHO meeting)
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, April 19 (Reuters) - The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Western countries and drug companies pledged fresh support on Wednesday to wipe out diseases that blind, disable and disfigure millions of poor in tropical areas each year and urged new donors to join the fight.
Some 1.5 billion people, mainly in Asia, Africa and Latin America, are infected with one of 18 neglected tropical diseases known as NTDs, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said. One billion of them are receiving treatment, half of them children.
"The best thing with these diseases is not to debate whether they are neglected or not, but to proceed to make them history," Bill Gates told a global partners' meeting held at WHO.
"We need a broader, deeper bench of investors... so that by 2030 we can achieve the goal of reaching 90 percent of the people who need treatment. I know this is achievable." Continued...