UK boosts aid for tropical disease treatment

16 Apr 17

The UK has today announced £205m in aid to protect over 200 million people from treatable tropical diseases that receive little international attention.


Guinea worm, trachoma and river blindness are among the illnesses targeted, known as neglected tropical diseases, which affect over one billion people in the world’s poorest countries and can cause death, severe pain or long-term disability.

Despite their relative obscurity, such diseases cost developing economies billions of dollars every year in lost productivity as victims are kept out of work and school.

The UK’s international development secretary Priti Patel highlighted that neglected tropical diseases cause “unimaginable suffering” and force the world’s poorest into a “deeper cycle of poverty with no way out” – yet are treatable.

“These diseases belong to the last century,” she said.

The funding announced today, which spans the next six years, represents a doubling of Britain’s average annual spend on neglected tropical diseases between 2012 and 2016, which stood at around £30m per year.  

It includes £205m of new funding to be paid out between the current financial year until 2021-22. A further £55m, part of an existing UK commitment made in 2012, will be spent in the next two years, while £100m will be drawn down from the Ross Fund – a £1bn fund set up in 2015 by then-UK chancellor George Osborne and Microsoft founder Bill Gates to tackle infectious diseases.

The UK also said it will be investing in research and development for new technologies, including drugs and diagnostic and delivery tools, to fight neglected tropical diseases, to the tune of £98m.

NGOs, academics and former US president Jimmy Carter are among those to welcome the announcement.

Caroline Harper, CEO of Sightsavers, which works to eliminate neglected tropical diseases that cause blindness like trachoma, said: "It is the poorest people on earth who suffer from these diseases and I have been very proud to witness personally the impact UK aid has had on their lives.

"Whether it is the excruciating agony of blinding trachoma, the stunting of children with worms or the disabilities caused by river blindness and lymphatic filariasis – saving over a billion people from this fate is an incredible legacy for the people of the UK."

  • Emma Rumney

    Emma is a reporter at Cooking Recipes International. She also writes for in the UK.

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