The World Health Organisation (WHO) has included water, sanitation and hygiene as part of its new strategy to fight neglected tropical diseases which afflict more than 1.5 billion people globally.

Maria Neira, Head of Public Health, WHO, disclosed this on Friday at the launch of the initiative at a global water conference in Stockholm.

"Including water and sanitation in local and national programmes would reduce infections, improve treatment, and reduce the discrimination and stigma that people disfigured by diseases often face.

She noted that those suffering from the 7 diseases, such as intestinal worms, river blindness, leprosy and sleeping sickness include many of the poorest people in the world.

Neira said if WHO could put in place universal access to safe water and sanitation and hygiene, then the neglected tropical diseases in most cases would completely disappear or be put under control.

Dirk Engels, Director of the Department of Neglected Tropical Diseases at the WHO, said the terrible diseases required hygiene and sanitation.

"Neglected tropical diseases thrive where people live in extreme poverty with poor sanitation and little access to healthcare - usually in remote rural areas, urban slums or conflict zones.

"Water and sanitation require resources that exceed what WHO can generate for neglected tropical diseases, so we want to make sure that interventions both in public health and water and sanitation reach the poorest as a matter of priority," he said