News / Africa

    Thailand Rewards Nigerian Doctor for Work on River Blindness

    Doctor Uche Amazigo during a meeting of health experts in Abuja, Nigeria, 2009 file photo. (Credit: WHO)                   Doctor Uche Amazigo during a meeting of health experts in Abuja, Nigeria, 2009 file photo. (Credit: WHO)
    x
    Doctor Uche Amazigo during a meeting of health experts in Abuja, Nigeria, 2009 file photo. (Credit: WHO)
    Doctor Uche Amazigo during a meeting of health experts in Abuja, Nigeria, 2009 file photo. (Credit: WHO)
    Ron Corben
    A pioneering doctor in the fight against the river blindness disease in sub-Saharan Africa has received a prestigious award in Thailand - the Prince Mahidol Award for outstanding contributions in public health. Doctor Uche Amazigo says she is upbeat about efforts to combat the disease, despite political instability that has set back outreach efforts.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) says as many 18 million people, largely in Africa and Yemen, are infected by river blindness, a parasitic disease that has left 500,000 people visually impaired and a further 270,000 blinded.

    The WHO says long-term treatment for as long as 20 years is crucial to ensure victims are free from the parasite.

    The long duration of treatment means that disruptions in care, especially from conflict or political instability that displaces populations, set back efforts to contain the disease.

    Amazigo, former director of WHO’s African Program on Onchocerciasis, points to past conflicts in Southern Sudan as a challenge for medical workers to deliver treatment and necessary drugs.

    “It disrupts the ability of people to even distribute health commodities among themselves like ivermeticin, treated bed nets and vitamin ‘A’. We had huge challenges in Southern Sudan. We started the program in 1999 - it collapsed because of conflict. We went back in 2001, it collapsed because of conflict and we’re back again in 2010 - Now we cross our fingers that it’s going to continue," she said.

    The Nigerian-born Amazigo successfully introduced locally-directed treatment to communities. The networks now cover 117,000 communities within 19 African governments, backed by civil societies and donors.

    In 1987, U.S. pharmaceutical giant Merck and Co. launched a program donating the drug ‘ivermectin’ to all those affected by the disease as long as necessary, based on the community directed program.

    Amazigo says the disease is especially harsh on women who are often stigmatized when they begin showing the disease’s first signs as skin rashes.

    “More, more towards women because we found that it increased the age of marriage. Girls would not marry at the right age and would also reduce the period of breast feeding [due to rashes] and there was divorce also. But men too were affected by that," she explained.

    But Amazigo says she is "satisfied" with progress being made with the acceptance of partners, health providers and governments recognizing community participation as critical to reaching more than 120 million people at risk.

    River blindness is recognized as one of the neglected tropical disease contributing to poverty and under-development in Africa. The WHO has estimated $1.5 billion funding is needed to combat these diseases in Africa until 2017.

    Amazigo was in Thailand to receive the prestigious Prince Mahidol Award for outstanding contributions in public health. Britain’s Sir Michael Rawlings, chairman of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, was also recognized for his work in medicine.

    You May Like

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    South Korea Says North Korea Moving Closer to Rocket Launch

    In phone call, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree that Pyongyang's move would be 'provocative'

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.