A major step towards eliminating river blindness
On Monday 8 July, in Cameroon, Sightsavers made a major step towards our goal of eliminating river blindness by 2020 with the distribution of our 250 millionth Mectizan® treatment.
This neglected tropical disease is one of the main causes of blindness in Africa. It’s caused by a parasitic worm, the larvae of which are spread by the black simulium fly. The flies breed near fast-flowing rivers, making those who live or work near them particularly vulnerable.
It is estimated that over 102 million people in Africa are at risk from river blindness and more than 37 million are already infected*. Not only does the disease cause severe itching as well as blindness, it also affects the wider community.
Children miss out on education because they need to stay at home and look after their older relatives, while entire communities flee the area in fear of losing their sight, leaving ‘ghost villages’ in the most fertile land.
Our solution is to distribute the preventative treatment Mectizan®. The treatment is donated by Merck & Co. Inc (known as MSD in the UK) and is very cost-effective; it costs just 7p per person per year to distribute. But it needs to be taken annually over a period of at least 10 years in order to effectively control river blindness.
We rely on a network of amazing voluntary distributors to administer the treatment across entire communities.
During the next few days we’re going to be following English Premier League footballer Benoit Assou-Ekotto as he travels back to his homeland of Cameroon to witness the 250 millionth Mectizan® treatment. Join us here as we introduce you to the doctors, Sightsavers’ staff and community distributors who will make possible the goal of eliminating river blindness by 2020. Follow the trip on Twitter.