River blindness or onchocerciasis is a major health problem in the developing world. It is an eye and skin disease caused by a worm, and is the world’s second leading infectious cause of blindness.
River Blindness is an infection that is carried by a black fly that transmits tiny parasitic worms into a person when it bites. Once a worm has entered the body, it can live there for up to 15 years, and then migrate to the eye where it causes irreparable damage to the cornea and optic nerve.
More than 37 million people are infected with River Blindness, often living in poor, rural African communities. The infection can be treated, but once blindness occurs, it’s irreversible.
CBM has partnered with Merck & Co. to distribute a drug called Mectizan, which stops River Blindness. Merck donates the Mectizan and CBM distributes it. It costs about 75 cents to get one sight-saving dose into the hands of an infected person. Mectizan kills the off-spring of the adult worms and slows down their reproduction rate. This results in fewer worms reaching the eyes, and the chance of becoming blind is reduced.
Reaching everyone in need of Mectizan is often very difficult, and at times, dangerous. Projects are often located in remote, rural areas.
As a founding member of the Non-Governmental Development Organization Group for Onchocerciasis Control, CBM was involved in the founding of the African Program on Onchocerciasis Control (APOC). CBM has been successfully involved in preventing blindness from River Blindness for more than three decades through close collaborations with APOC, communities and other stakeholders.
CBM serves children, women and men with visual, hearing, physical and/or mental disabilities. Some of the disabilities served include:
Cleft Lip/Cleft Palate
Neglected Tropical Diseases