In 57 of the 106 countries involved, the number of new cases has dropped by at least 75%, while the decrease is 50 % or more in 18 other countries, WHO said.

But that is not a reason to give up the fight, shade the organization. This year, some 214 million people still have the disease and about 438,000 have died. This tropical disease is a leading cause of death in developing countries.

WHO said Tuesday the Maldives first country in South Asia free of the disease.