UK boosts spending on tropical diseases

BRITAIN will spend five times as much money as it does now helping the international effort to eliminate infectious tropical diseases, it was announced yesterday.

International Development Minister Stephen O’Brien said funding for neglected tropical diseases is to increase from £50 million to £245m between 2011 and 2015 as part of a global push to eradicate diseases including river blindness and elephantiasis.

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) currently affect one billion people and kill more than half a million every year.

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The extra money will help supply more than four treatments every second for people in the developing world for the next four years, protecting more than 140 million people, the Department for International Development (DFID) said.

The move comes ahead of a conference in London on 30 January, when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – which works to improve healthcare and reduce extreme poverty globally – will join governments, NGOs, and other organisations in making commitments to tackle NTDs.

Britain’s increased aid is largely focused on four diseases: lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis), onchocerciasis (river blindness), schistosomiasis (bilharzia) and dracunculiasis (Guinea Worm).