Treating the Hard to Reach - by River

Distribution of Mectizan® in high risk, remote areas of DRC to combat river blindness.

Distribution of Mectizan® in high risk, remote areas of DRC to combat river blindness.
© CBM/Tobias Pflanz

More than 49 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo are at risk from Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). Community Health Workers supported by CBM help to distribute vital treatments every year in some of the hardest to reach communities.

Patient never learnt to ride a bicycle but his skills with a wooden pirogue are impressive. As if walking on the water, he balances perfectly, his paddle moving precisely through the slowly moving waters, propelling his small dugout canoe quietly forward. Today, he is assisting Eyanga Lonkonga - one of a small army of volunteer Community Drug Distributors – to travel between villages to conduct the annual round of treatment against two tropical diseases – which is supported by CBM and the END Fund.

There are no roads connecting Ngombe-Malala Village to Boende, the capital city in Tshuapa Province – just the river. Everything has to travel by boat to arrive in the isolated communities that live on the river margins - including the drugs for the Ministry of Health’s annual treatment campaign.

Reaching every one of these remote communities is a challenge, but if the treatment is to be effective, at least 80% of individuals need to take the drugs annually. In this way, transmission of river blindness and elephantiasis can gradually be reduced, and these disabling diseases can eventually be eliminated.

Eyanga Lonkonga is not paid for the long weeks he spends explaining the dangers of disease, measuring people and giving them accurate doses of medicine, but at the moment it is his only work. He says - 

I chose to become a Community Health Worker to protect my community.

CBM and END Fund recently provided boats and outboards to the Coordinator of the NTD Programme in these Provinces to assist with the organisation and supervision of the drug distribution.

CBM NTD Report 2021

Read more stories about our fight against NTDs in our Annual Report 2021.

Access the Report now!