Fighting Disease: Brazil
Eliminating Onchocerciasis From the Americas
Onchocerciasis, commonly known as river blindness, is found in Brazil in two states bordering Venezuela — Amazonas and Roraima — and affects approximately 9,000 Brazilians.
The endemic areas are among the hardest to access due to their extremely remote locations. Sometimes even boats or rafts, the most common forms of transportation to reach program areas, can be unsuitable for the terrain. Short-term consultants frequently have to hire helicopters, donkeys, and guides to provide health education and medicine in these isolated communities. One of the most at-risk and difficult-to-reach populations is the migratory Yanomami people, an indigenous group who routinely move across the border from Brazil into Venezuela.
When the program began in 1996, Brazil administered only 1,276 Mectizan® treatments (donated by Merck). This number was vastly short of the amount needed to treat the eligible population of 4,500 twice-yearly to prevent the onset of permanent blindness. In 2001, The Carter Center assisted in providing 8,000 treatments, and Brazil surpassed the 85 percent treatment coverage goal for the 11th consecutive year.