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UK to invest £360m in measures to eradicate tropical diseases

The UK will spend £360 million of aid money as part of a drive to eradicate tropical diseases which cause suffering for hundreds of millions of people around the world.

The Government is doubling its support over the next five years to fund measures aimed at diseases including Guinea worm, trachoma and river blindness.

The aid effort will protect over 200 million people from pain and disfigurement, the Department for International Development (DfID) said.

The UK's commitment comes ahead of the World Health Organisation conference in Geneva where the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, governments, charities and the private sector will come together in an effort to wipe out neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

International Development Secretary Priti Patel said: "These diseases belong to the last century.

"They cause unimaginable suffering and pain to some of the world's poorest people, forcing them into a deeper cycle of poverty with no way out. Yet they are treatable.

"The UK's support will protect over 200 million people from a future blighted by tropical disease and represents a huge leap towards ending this scourge.

"Through our commitment, through our leading NGOs and pharma companies, through our world-class universities and researchers, global Britain will continue to play a leading role in this fight.

"These diseases have been named 'neglected' for a reason, but I'm not prepared for them to be neglected any longer."

Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates said: " UK aid and Britain's world-leading research institutions are playing a major role in protecting the world's poorest people from neglected tropical diseases and enabling them to live healthier, more prosperous lives.

"With our foundation, I am proud to partner with the UK on global health and look forward to sharing more specifics about how we will further our commitment in the fight against NTDs this week at the summit in Geneva."

DfID said the UK's total support package will wipe out Guinea worm, which is transmitted through dirty water, eliminate parasitic disease visceral leishmaniasis in Asia, prevent up to 400,000 cases of blindness caused by trachoma and prevent tens of thousands of cases of disability caused by the mosquito-transmitted disease lymphatic filariasis.

The funding includes £205 million of new support from 2017/18 to 2021/22, £55 million for the next two years which forms part of an existing UK commitment and £100 million allocated from the £1 billion Ross Fund portfolio which supports research and development.

UK spending on NTD measures between 2012 and 2016 had averaged almost £30 million per year - the new package will more than double that.

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