The UK is to double the funding it streams into supporting the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), such as trachoma, Guinea worm and river blindness, over the next five years.

The government’s Department for International Development has announced that a total of £360 million will spent on implementation programmes to tackle NTDs over the timeframe, including £205 million of new support and £100 million from the Ross Fund portfolio - a £1 billion programme which brings together UK government investments to address the world’s deadliest infectious diseases by developing, testing and delivering new products such as vaccines, drugs and diagnostics.

The increased investment will protect over 200 million people from the pain and disfigurement caused by treatable tropical diseases, said international development secretary Priti Patel.

The support package aims to help wipe out Guinea worm, which is transmitted through dirty water and eliminate visceral leishmaniasis in Asia, a parasitic disease caused by infected sand-flies which destroy the internal organs.

Also, it should prevent up to 400,000 cases of blindness caused by trachoma, and prevent tens of thousands of cases of disability caused by lymphatic filariasis, a mosquito-transmitted disease.

The UK also intends to “build on the great work done by our world-class universities, pharma companies and NGOs” in tackling NTDs “by investing in pioneering research to drive the development of drugs that will control or eliminate them”, the government noted.

“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,” said Patel.

“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.”