SCI Foundation is now Unlimit Health. Learn more about what the change means for our ongoing efforts to eliminate neglected tropical diseases

The Ascend Learning and Innovation Fund

4 May 2020

Do you have an innovative idea to help beat neglected tropical diseases?

The Ascend West and Central Africa programme is excited to announce the launch of a new learning and innovation fund to accelerate the control and elimination efforts for up to five neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) – lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminths and trachoma.

The Ascend Learning and Innovation Fund provides up to £500,000 in grant funding to support a flexible range of NTD-focused projects in 13 countries in West and Central Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria and Sierra Leone). The fund seeks to enhance the quality of effective NTD programming by testing innovative ideas  and assisting the transition of programme learnings into scalable and sustainable outcomes.

Impact of COVID-19

It is impossible to say what the medium and long-term impact will be on national NTD programmes and the communities. Currently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) have asked for NTD community-based surveys, active case-finding activities, and mass treatments campaigns to be postponed. This is not about cancelling NTD programmes but delaying activities. The Ascend Learning and Innovation Fund are committed to remaining flexible to the rapidly changing circumstances whilst continuing to deliver certain aspects of national NTD programmes in the most effective and safest way possible.

In response to the evolving environment, the Fund is now proactively seeking proposals which can re-purpose NTD platforms to support the COVID-19 response, where appropriate, as well as proposals which will support the recovery of NTD programmes once WHO has advised it is safe to resume elimination activities.

Turn your idea into a life-changing project 

If you have an impactful, evidence-based idea, the Ascend Fund wants to hear it and help make it a reality. They are seeking project proposals that address one of the five following challenge statements:

  • Challenge 1: COVID-19 response – How can NTD programming provide entry points for COVID-19 response and readiness?
  • Challenge 2: Collaboration and multisectoral action – How can NTD interventions leverage synergies arising from collaborations across diseases, sectors and borders?
  • Challenge 3: Universal Health Coverage (UHC) – How can we enhance access to, and quality of, NTD treatment and prevention services in the context of UHC?
  • Challenge 4. Health systems strengthening – How can we ensure long-term, in-country sustainability for NTD programmes?
  • Challenge 5. Data systems – How can we increase the quality and availability of NTD data at all levels to better inform NTD programming?

If you want to address something outside of these challenges that is relevant to the control and elimination of neglected tropical diseases, please send an email to to discuss further.

Applying for funding

The fund consists of 5 application windows. Applications for Cycle 1 open in April 2020 and will close 29th May 2020. Cycles 1-4 will be open to all applicants; Cycle 5 will be restricted to existing projects or partners funded under previous cycles. All project activities and reports will have to be completed and submitted by 31st March 2022 at the latest.

For more information on the application process, fund guidelines and challenge statements please visit: or email the team on