“Enormous challenge” for the world

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Curing rare diseases is often not profitable. Nevertheless, those affected suffer. Pope Francis has therefore called for increased efforts in the fight against rare and neglected diseases.

Pope Francis has called for increased efforts in the fight against rare and neglected diseases. This is an "enormous challenge" on a global scale, according to a message released by the Vatican on Saturday.

Sufferers are above all poor people. The environmental pollution often aggravates their situation, in some cases it even triggers the diseases. In the letter, the pope calls for joint action by politicians, health organizations, the pharmaceutical industry, advocacy groups and citizens.

"The health problem is global"

The message was prompted by an international congress on this topic hosted by the Pontifical Council for Health at the Vatican. The event was attended by 320 experts from 50 countries.

In addition to medical research and technical progress, the testimony of those helpers who go to the peripheries of the world to help sick people is indispensable, the Pope writes further. What is needed above all for effective action is a "free and courageous will to bring a global health problem to a good solution".

Many affected

According to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), some 400 million people are affected by rare diseases. This category includes between 5.000 and 8.000 disease patterns. Rare diseases include Asperger’s syndrome, which is an autistic developmental disorder, and Addison’s disease, which is a severe disease of the adrenal glands.

More than a billion people also have "neglected" diseases, WHO says. The risk is particularly high in tropical areas with poor water and sanitation, he said. These include tapeworm diseases and dengue fever.

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