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Tiny Tablet Makes Huge Difference in this Woman’s Life

  • Community-directed drug distributor Gabriel Ani measures Cordelia Anude of Nigeria’s Enugu state to determine her annual treatment for river blindness disease. (Photo: The Carter Center/ R. McDowall)

Cordelia Anude wears a stylish metal cross pendant, a symbol of the faith that sustains her. However, it wasn’t so long ago that she felt distanced from God and from her fellow believers. An advancing case of river blindness had impaired her vision, making it impossible to walk to church on Sunday or study her Bible at home.

“I wanted to attend a seminar they were giving, but I could not read the enrollment form,” Anude lamented on her front porch in southeastern Nigeria’s Enugu State.

River blindness, also known as onchocerciasis, is a parasitic infection that can cause intense itching, skin discoloration, rashes, and eye disease that often leads to permanent blindness. The parasite is spread by the bites of black flies that breed in rapidly flowing rivers.

The Carter Center currently assists ministries of health in six nations to eliminate river blindness through health education and mass distribution of the medicine Mectizan®, donated by Merck.

Mectizan kills the parasite larvae in the human body, preventing blindness and skin disease in infected persons, and stopping the transmission of the parasite to others. The Carter Center works through national ministries of health to provide health education and mobilize affected communities to distribute Mectizan.

In Africa, where more than 99 percent of the global cases exist and most Mectizan treatments are annual, the Center and its partners have successfully broken river blindness transmission in Uganda and Sudan by providing Mectizan treatments twice per year. The successes have spurred river blindness elimination projects in Ethiopia and Nigeria.

Anude has found redemption through the work of The Carter Center and her neighbor, community-directed drug distributor Gabriel Ani. After three treatments with Mectizan, her vision has improved, she can take care of herself, and she has reconnected with her faith community.

“I can farm. I am strong,” she says forcefully. “The Mectizan tablet is small but mighty!”  

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