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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More