New health programme will protect 200 million people from disease

September 2019
Muhammed, who has lymphatic filariasis, with health worker Suraji in Nigeria.
The Ascend programme aims to help patients such as 59-year-old Muhammad (left) from Nigeria, who has lymphatic filariasis.

A new UK aid programme has been launched to help protect 200 million people worldwide from debilitating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

The flagship programme, called Ascend, was announced by the UK’s international development minister Baroness Sugg at the NTD NGO conference 2019  in Liverpool. It will tackle six of the world’s worst diseases (lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, intestinal worms, visceral leishmaniasis and trachoma) in 25 of the world’s poorest countries. The programme will also help national governments to combat these diseases themselves in future.

Sightsavers is leading the West and Central Africa part of the programme, along with a consortium of partners including Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Mott MacDonald. Between 2019 and 2022, it aims to deliver 440 million treatments in 13 countries, and make major progress towards treating, controlling and eliminating these painful  conditions.

Baroness Sugg said: “These debilitating but preventable diseases stop sufferers from working, studying and leading prosperous, healthy lives. This new UK aid support will stop hundreds of millions of people suffering from their terrible effects, and will boost the economies of 25 of the world’s poorest countries.”

Simon Bush, Sightsavers’ director of neglected tropical diseases, said: “More than a billion people are at risk of neglected tropical diseases, a group of conditions that are completely preventable and easy to treat, yet cause agony, disability and often trap people in a cycle of poverty.

“Thanks to this new programme from the UK’s Department for International Development, we will be able to treat, control and even eliminate more of them than ever before, and make a long-lasting impact on global health.”

A child drinks water from a cup during a drug administration session in Nigeria.

How will Ascend change lives?

Sightsavers is leading the Ascend programme in West and Central Africa, which aims to deliver 440 million treatments in 13 countries to protect people from disease.

More about Ascend

Read all our latest news stories

News from Sightsavers
Professor Christopher Whitty.
News /

Sightsavers trustee Sir Chris Whitty knighted in New Year Honours

Sir Chris, who has been on the Sightsavers board since 2017, has been recognised for his role in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

January 2022
Two girls smile and link arms near their home, with dusty ground and trees in the background.
News /

A year in review: what we achieved in 2021

In a year dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sightsavers once again reached some remarkable milestones. Our round-up shows how your support has helped to change lives.

December 2021
A group of women sing, dance, and clap their hands.

Vote for Sightsavers in the 2021 Charity Film Awards

Two Sightsavers films that were created during the COVID-19 pandemic have been submitted for the awards, which celebrate and reward the best fundraising films. 

December 2021

Learn about our work to save sight