Ascend: fighting disease in West and Central Africa

This three-year programme is the largest multiple neglected tropical disease (NTD) programme Sightsavers has supported to date. It aims to protect millions of people from NTDs in 13 countries.

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

The Ascend programme could play an important role in mitigating the impact of COVID-19 in Africa, according to David Molyneux, former director of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM).

Read David's report (PDF)

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

The UK aid-funded programme is managed by four leading development organisations and led by Sightsavers. Together we will support the delivery of around 400 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.

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 male healthcare worker stands outside wearing a colourful face mask and a white coat.

Fighting COVID-19 and NTDs

Discover how the Ascend West and Central Africa programme and its partners supported ministries to respond to COVID 19 and see some of the amazing artwork and videos created.

Ascend and COVID-19

Successes to date

In the first year of the programme, Ascend West and Central Africa delivered nine million more treatments than originally envisioned. Other achievements include:

127 million
treatments provided across 13 countries
Over 375,000
community volunteers and teachers trained
country ministries supported with COVID-19 response

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.

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, including: Sightsavers, Mott MacDonald, the SCI Foundation and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. Each partner is 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 and partners are supporting 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
  • a person records data into a mobile phone while a family looks on.

    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.

    Find out more

    Want to learn about our work on NTDs?

    Neglected tropical diseases

    More about Ascend

    A man sits in an office wearing a face covering
    Sightsavers from the field

    Reducing stigma in communities while fighting NTDs

    Mr Alabi, the neglected tropical disease (NTD) coordinator for Kogi State, Nigeria, and his team provide NTD interventions to more than four million people annually.

    August 2020
    Sightsavers from the field

    Working together to tackle NTDs in Liberia

    In the first year of the programme, the Ascend West and Central Africa partners have supported health workers and volunteers to deliver mass treatment campaigns that will help tackle high rates of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in Liberia.

    August 2020
    A man stands for a portrait.
    Sightsavers Reports

    Sani Muhammad’s story

    Alhaji Sani Muhammad Dan'lya is the acting chairman of Sokoto State's chapter of the Joint Association of Persons with Disabilities. He helps to highlight the importance of disability inclusion within the Ascend West and Central Africa programme.