The UK Aid-funded Accelerating the Sustainable Control and Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (Ascend) programme is working to improve the lives of millions of people living with neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), through the treatment and prevention of five diseases: onchocerciasis, trachoma, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis and visceral leishmaniasis.
Treatment includes the mass delivery of drugs to communities at risk, as well as surgery and care for symptoms of these diseases, such as swelling of the scrotum and legs caused by lymphatic filariasis or eye damage and vision loss caused by repeated infection with trachoma.
Importantly, Ascend Lot 1 is not only working to reduce the burden of these diseases, but also to ensure the long-term sustainability of NTD care in the 11 countries it works in, by working closely with government ministries to strengthen health systems. The programme is contributing towards the World Health Organization’s NTD roadmap goal to eliminate these diseases by 2030.
What we achieved at the end of 2020
The unprecedented impact of the Covid 19 pandemic suspended programme implementation for much of 2020, but the final quarter marked the resumption of NTD activities and saw Ascend successfully adapt in rapid time — ensuring NTD interventions were implemented in a safe and effective manner.
Between October and December 2020 the programme was finally able to get into its stride with successes supporting improvements in health systems, supply chains, information management and in reaching remote and marginalised populations.
Highlights this past quarter include:
- Designing, building, testing and rolling-out a monitoring and information system for NTDs built on the widely-used DHIS2.0 software platform in 7 countries.
- Improving supply chains by tracking the movement of NTD drugs, even in the most remote places, using a real-time data platform called NTDeliver.
- Setting up a health clinic for refugees fleeing from Tigray, Ethiopia into Sudan
- The creation and delivery of workshops on COVID-19, it’s impact on NTD programmes and the use of PPE to mitigate risks to health care workers.
- Contracting local NGOs in Malawi and Zambia, with a view to increase their capacity in 2021 by supporting leadership, implementation, budgets and contracts for NTD activities, as well as helping them partner successfully with ministries of health.
- Helping to embed NTDs within government health systems, such as
- Working with the disease surveillance unit in Kenya to ensure select NTDs are included within the national health surveillance systems.
- Establishing a telephone outreach service to follow up with visceral leishmaniasis and lymphatic filariasis patients as part of the Covid-19 response in Bangladesh.
Our achievements to date
Since its launch in March 2019, Ascend Lot 1’s achievements include:
- 36,147,874 Mass Drug Administration treatments completed over 14 campaigns — 11 of which have been fully validated.
- An additional 9,697,063 treatments for Soil transmitted helminths provided simultaneously with lymphatic filariasis and schistosomiasis campaigns.
- More than 4700 NTD treatments — 1333 for trachoma, 1766 for lymphatic filariasis and 1525 for visceral leishmaniasis.
- A little over 20 million treatments delivered in Mozambique.
The UKAid funded Ascend programme in Nepal (Lot 1) is managed by a consortium of Crown Agents, Oriole Global Health, ABT Associates and KIT Tropical Institute