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Fighting Disease: Nigeria


Eliminating River Blindness

For additional information and updates on the following health programs, read the latest issue of Eye of the Eagle.

Nigeria is the most endemic country in the world for river blindness (onchocerciasis), accounting for as much as 40 percent of the global disease burden. It is estimated that up to 31 million Nigerians living in 32 endemic states need treatment for river blindness.

In 1989, its first year in operation, the Nigeria National Onchocerciasis Control Program treated 49,566 people with Mectizan® (ivermectin, donated by Merck). Today, the national program is one of the world's largest distributors of Mectizan. With headquarters in Jos, Plateau State and supporting sub-offices in Lagos, Owerri, Benin City, and Enugu, the Carter Center's River Blindness Elimination Program assists treatment activities in nine states in Nigeria: Abia, Anambra, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, Imo, Nasarawa, and Plateau.

A major Carter Center partner in Nigeria has been the Lions Clubs International Foundation SightFirst Initiative. Lions Clubs District 404, with Lions Clubs International Foundation support, promotes public awareness of the disease by advocating for onchocerciasis control, meeting with high-ranking officials to solicit support, and visiting communities where mass treatment is provided. In addition, significant portions of the health programming in participating villages are funded by the villages themselves.

In two states, The Carter Center piloted an integrated approach to target three diseases simultaneously: onchocerciasis (river blindness), lymphatic filariasis, and schistosomiasis. Using the same program structure to provide medicine distribution and health education for more than one disease resulted in operational cost savings of approximately 41 percent over the stand-alone distributions. This successful strategy is inspiring other programs within The Carter Center and in other organizations to integrate efforts.

In 2014, the Carter Center-assisted River Blindness Elimination Program in Nigeria distributed Mectizan and health education to nearly 7 million people across nearly 16,000 villages.


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Real Lives, Real Change

Photo credit: Carter Center/ E. Miri
(Click to Enlarge)

In Nasarawa state, Nigeria, 35-year-old Zaki Baushe's job as a tailor was hindered by his poor eyesight caused by the parasitic disease river blindness. After Carter Center-supported health education and annual doses of the Merck-donated drug Mectizan® to treat river blindness, Baushe is now able to thread a needle and provide for his family. Read more.