Turn your innovative idea into a life-changing project to help beat neglected tropical diseases

April 2020
A woman stands outside, holding out her hand to show medication and holding a cup in her other hand.

A new learning and innovation fund aims to accelerate the control and elimination efforts of five debilitating diseases.

UK aid’s Ascend West and Central Africa programme is excited to announce the launch of a new fund focusing on five neglected tropical diseases (NTDs): lymphatic filariasis, river blindness, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminths and trachoma.

The programme works across 13 countries in West and Central Africa to protect millions of people from these painful and poverty-trapping diseases.

The Ascend Learning and Innovation Fund provides up to £500,000 in grant funding to support a range of NTD-focused projects across these countries, some of the poorest in the world.

Impact of COVID-19

It is unclear what the medium- and long-term impact will be on national NTD programmes and the communities. Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has asked for NTD community-based surveys, active case-finding activities, and mass treatment campaigns to be postponed.

This is not about cancelling NTD programmes, but delaying activities. The Ascend Learning and Innovation Fund is committed to remaining flexible to the rapidly changing circumstances while continuing to deliver certain aspects of national NTD programmes in the most effective and safest way possible.

In response to the evolving environment, we are now proactively seeking proposals which can re-purpose NTD platforms to support the COVID-19 response, where appropriate, as well as proposals which will support the recovery of NTD programmes, once the WHO has advised it is safe to resume elimination activities.

If you have an impactful, evidence-based idea, we want to hear about it and help make it a reality. The fund is seeking project proposals that address one of the five following challenge statements:

  • Challenge 1: COVID-19 response – How can NTD programming provide entry points for COVID-19 response and readiness?
  • Challenge 2: Collaboration and multi-sectoral action – How can NTD interventions leverage synergies arising from collaborations across diseases, sectors and borders?
  • Challenge 3: Universal health coverage (UHC) – How can we enhance access to, and the quality of, NTD treatment and prevention services in the context of UHC?
  • Challenge 4: Health system strengthening – How can we ensure long-term, in-country sustainability for NTD programmes?
  • Challenge 5: Data systems – How can we increase the quality and availability of NTD data at all levels to better inform NTD programming?

If you have identified a challenge that falls outside of the above that is relevant to the control and elimination of NTDs, we still want to know. Please send an email to: [email protected] to discuss your idea further.

How to apply

The fund consists of five application windows. 

Applications for Cycle 1 open on 27 April 2020 and close on 29 May 2020.

Cycles 1-4 will be open to all applicants. Cycle 5 will be restricted to existing projects or partners. All project activities and reports must be completed and submitted by 31st March 2022 at the latest.

For more information on the application process, fund guidelines and challenge statements, please visit the fund website or email the team.

Emmanuel Duako, a man from Ghana, is blind from river blindness. He stands for a portrait outside his fruit farm.

The Innovation Fund

The Ascend Learning and Innovation Fund will provide grants to support a range of NTD-focused activities, from research to large-scale implementation, across 13 countries in West and Central Africa.

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