The World Health Organization (WHO) is the specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health. Established on 7 April 1948, WHO works worldwide to promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable.


Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are a set of 20 diseases and disease groups that principally affect the poorest people in the poorest countries. They kill, blind, disfigure and maim, causing considerable and largely untold suffering to millions of people worldwide. Nearly all NTDs are preventable or treatable with relatively simple interventions. WHO’s Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases coordinates and supports policies and strategies to enhance global access to those interventions.


Prior to the recently announced UK aid cuts, “Accelerating the Sustainable Control and Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases” (ASCEND) was the United Kingdom’s flagship health programme on NTDs. ASCEND provided crucial funding to national NTD control, elimination and eradication programmes in 19 countries. Specifically, ASCEND supported:


Many of the NTD interventions that were supported by UK aid involved the large-scale distribution of donated medicines to endemic populations; the withdrawal of UK funding makes it likely that an estimated in-country inventory of 276,802,004 tablets donated by British and international pharmaceutical companies will expire and need to be incinerated, rather than being distributed to willing recipients to prevent and eliminate disease.


No obvious alternative source of funding exists to fill the funding gaps that will be left by the exit of ASCEND.