Unfortunately, I am unable to attend this event due to pre-existing commitments. However, please be assured that I will read with care any briefing provided.
You will no doubt be aware of the achievements of the UK's past work to tackle neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) worldwide. In particular, I note the success of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) £200m flagship health programme 'ASCEND', which sought to protect people globally from NTDs between 2019-2022. This initiative supported the delivery of over 156 million NTD treatments in over 20 countries.
Leadership and core funding from the UK have also been crucial in supporting the work of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, to ensure that neglected diseases and neglected patients are not left behind. Since January 2021, the UK has invested over £42 million in the delivery of services to prevent and treat NTDs, and in the strengthening of health systems to provide these essential services, as well as £15.6 million in research on NTDs.
It is, of course, important for the UK to consolidate past success with action going forward, and I welcome that the G7 leaders committed to continuing to address NTDs and work in partnership to strengthen health systems worldwide at the 48th G7 Summit.
I appreciate the concern raised about the impact of the temporary aid budget reduction on NTDs. Ministers had to take many tough but necessary decisions in responding to the pandemic, including reducing our ODA budget from 0.7 to 0.5 per cent of the UK's gross national income (GNI). I remain persuaded by the necessity of this measure and take assurance from the fact the UK is still one of the most generous donors worldwide.
To this end, I am encouraged that the UK's new international development strategy, published in May 2022, reaffirmed global health as a key priority for UK official development assistance spend, in line with recent FCDO global health papers on Health Systems Strengthening and Ending Preventable Deaths. Efforts to tackle NTDs will no doubt continue to benefit from this overarching focus and related development policies.
Indeed, conditions of poverty, such as inadequate access to water, sanitation, hygiene and health services, contribute to the persistence of NTDs. This is one of many reasons that I am proud that improving health equity is at the heart of the FCDO's approach to global health. Diseases of poverty also disproportionately affect women and girls, support for whom rightly forms one of four pillars of HMG's International Development Strategy.
Going forward, the UK will continue to invest in research into NTDs and support countries to strengthen their health systems, in turn ensuring continued progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG Target 3.3 on ending NTD epidemics.