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BBC Examines River Blindness Program In Sub-Saharan Africa

BBC examines a campaign in sub-Saharan Africa that is helping to distribute drugs to prevent onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness – a disease “caused by a parasite that is spread from human to human by the black fly, which once flourished along river beds where there is fast-flowing water.” According to the BBC, “Some 35 million people are currently infected with river blindness, and about 140 million people in Africa are at risk of infection.”

The article details the evolution of the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) that began in 1995 with the goal of “eliminat[ing] river blindness as a disease of public health importance in Africa” – from the challenges associated with obtaining the drug ivermectin that could prevent the disease and the formation of a “huge distribution network… required to ensure that people received the medication on a regular basis,” BBC writes.

Since the start of the program, “more than 600,000 community distributors have joined the campaign to eradicate the scourge of river blindness across sub-Saharan Africa, and drugs to prevent the disease have been distributed to over 54 million people,” the BBC writes. The success of the large-scale community program “is causing excitement in African medical circles,” because it “may now be used to distribute other drugs to fight malaria or HIV/AIDS – and to hand out bed nets that prevent people being bitten by insects carrying disease” (Wood, BBC, 6/18).