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UK government cuts funding for neglected tropical diseases

June 2021
School children in a queue have their information taken by a man

The UK’s foreign aid budget is being cut by £4 billion, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has announced.

The cut includes ending funding, apparently permanently, for the FCDO’s flagship neglected tropical disease programmes, including the Sightsavers-led Ascend West and Central Africa programme.

On 16 June the World Health Organization (WHO) warned about the impact of the cuts, stating that ‘no obvious alternative source of funding exists to fill the funding gaps’ left by this exit.

The Ascend programme aimed to support 13 West African countries to make major progress towards eliminating five neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

In a joint statement, the consortium said: “We are devastated by the UK government’s confirmation that they are prematurely pulling funding for NTD programmes – abruptly and permanently abandoning low-cost, effective treatment that makes a meaningful difference to hundreds of millions of lives.

“We are proud of the outstanding progress achieved by these and other NTD programmes, which have improved the health and prospects of many millions of people and contributed to eliminating trachoma in Ghana and The Gambia, and lymphatic filariasis in Malawi. The reality of this decision is that, for many others, disease may go untreated and this progress to eliminate these life-changing conditions, in the poorest and most marginalised communities around the world, will be undone.

“The UK was a global leader in the fight against NTDs and we call on the UK government to return to this leadership position as soon as possible. It is vital that NTDs are prioritised in future global health plans – only through prioritisation and demonstrable leadership will we be able to eliminate these diseases and build on the momentum that has been achieved.”

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

Ascend: fighting disease in West and Central Africa

This three-year programme is the largest multiple neglected tropical disease programme Sightsavers has supported to date.

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