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Ascend: fighting disease in West and Central Africa

This three-year programme is Sightsavers’ largest multiple disease programme to date. It aims to deliver over 300 million treatments in 13 countries to treat neglected tropical diseases.

A child drinks water from a cup during a drug administration session in Nigeria.
Children in Malawi queue up to have their eyes checked by an eye health worker.

COVID-19 and Ascend

Ascend West and Central Africa could play an important role in mitigating the impact of COVID-19 in Africa, according to an opinion piece by David Molyneux, emeritus professor and former director of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM).

Read the opinion piece

The Ascend West and Central Africa programme aims to make major progress towards eliminating five painful and poverty-trapping neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in 13 of the world’s poorest countries.

The new UK aid programme is managed by four leading development organisations. Together we will deliver over 300 million treatments to help several countries to reach the elimination threshold for diseases and promote long-term sustainable change.

In three years (2019-2022), the Ascend programme aims to transform millions of lives by treating trachoma, river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis and intestinal worms.

We will work alongside ministries of health, communities and partners including the World Health Organization (WHO) in endemic countries to deliver one of the most significant NTD programmes in history.

Ascend also gives Sightsavers the opportunity to continue the momentum, of several other NTD programmes that finished in 2019, including:

The video below shows the work already achieved to tackle lymphatic filariasis in the Bijagos Islands in Guinea-Bissau. The Ascend programme will build on this work, and that of many other programmes, to help us treat these devastating diseases.

A close-up of two people shaking hands.

Ascend: our consortium partners

To achieve Ascend’s goals, Sightsavers is working with partners including Mott Macdonald, the SCI Foundation and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, as well as the FCDO.

300 million
treatments will be provided to protect people from NTDs
Five diseases
will be targeted, often using a combination of medication
13 countries
in West and Central Africa will take part in the programme

Why is Ascend important?

  • The programme will protect millions of people from NTDs. More than a billion people in the world’s poorest communities are at risk of these painful diseases. The programme will help several countries reach elimination thresholds and contribute to a major leap forward in global elimination efforts.
  • We believe every person – no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have – should be able to access health services. To help achieve this vision of universal health coverage, Ascend will work with ministries of health to support enduring, sustainable improvement.
  • It will strengthen healthcare building blocks, working side by side with ministries of health to support the training, systems and equipment needed to fight NTDs. This will ensure the legacy of Ascend continues in future.
  • The programme is committed to working with disabled people’s organisations so people with disabilities are involved in  its design, delivery and evaluation, boosting the impact and inclusiveness of our NTD programmes.
  • It will expand the Tropical Data programme, which until now has focused solely on trachoma, to also gather data about schistosomiasis and intestinal worms. We will use what we learn to speed up the progress to eliminate these NTDs.

How will we carry out this work?

The Ascend consortium is made up of four of the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) established partners, responsible for NTD programming in collaboration with national governments. Ascend will build on this by working with partners and small/medium enterprises to fight the diseases and eliminate them wherever possible.

Every person has a part to play in eliminating these diseases. Together we can enhance the health, quality of life and future wellbeing of people affected by these painful, poverty-trapping conditions.

Where does the programme run?

Sightsavers is working with partners and ministries of health in 13 countries:

  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea Bissau
  • Liberia
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Sierra Leone
  • Nurse Lokoto helps a woman with lymphatic filariasis to wash her swollen limb.

    How Ascend will help

    Lokoto Samengoy has worked as a nurse in DRC for 12 years, helping patients with lymphatic filariasis. The disease causes their limbs to swell painfully, but can be managed through daily care. “When we treat patients, we also explain what the problem is with their legs,” she says.

    Lokoto’s work is funded by the FCDO and can now continue thanks to the Ascend programme.

    About lymphatic filariasis

    Want to learn about our work on NTDs?

    Neglected tropical diseases

    More about NTDs

    A volunteer drug distributor washing hands washes someone's hands.
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