News / Africa

Northern Sudan Set to Eliminate River Blindness

A laborer tends to a field in the Central African Republic, despite his affliction with river blindness, June 9, 2010.
A laborer tends to a field in the Central African Republic, despite his affliction with river blindness, June 9, 2010.
Jill Craig
River blindness may soon be a thing of the past in East Africa. 

Scientists believe a long-term community drug treatment in Abu Hamed, Sudan has eradicated this parasitic disease, which causes severe skin problems and in some cases, total blindness.

Abu Hamed is the world’s northernmost location of onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness. In 1998, residents of this Nile River town began a community-directed treatment program of ivermectin, a medication that stems the infestation of worms.

In 2012, treatment was halted after scientists found that following eight years of annual treatment and six years of semi-annual treatment, there was no evidence of the disease or its transmission around Abu Hamed.

Dr. Tarig Higazi, who was born and raised in Sudan, is a professor at Ohio University and lead author for the study. His team studied three primary onchocerciasis-endemic areas in Sudan and South Sudan

Higazi said that the findings from northern Sudan are significant.

“And we now prove that the disease is not transmitted. So there’s no more treatment in northern Sudan,” he said. “And hopefully, in a couple of years, we’ll be able to prove that the disease has been eliminated.”

The disease will be officially declared eliminated in Abu Hamed after three years of mandatory post-treatment surveillance are complete, in accordance with World Health Organization guidelines.

Higazi said that this is the first time river blindness appears to have been completely eliminated in a large remote area – with over 100,000 people at risk in Abu Hamed.

“It is very isolated, it’s far away from any other endemic areas, it’s in the middle of the Sahara Desert, basically, meaning that it’s only confined to the River Nile,” he said.

Onchocerciasis is transmitted by black flies that breed in fast-moving waterways. The flies serve as disease vectors, so when they bite humans, they deposit larvae under the skin that develop into adult worms.

As the worms grow under the skin, they cause severe itching and discomfort. In South Sudan, Higazi said, the disease more closely resembles the West African strain, where blindness occurs. 

But, not everyone with river blindness goes blind.

Higazi asserted that in Sudan, for example, people do not usually lose their eyesight from the disease. Instead, they may suffer from what locals call sowda, meaning that the limb appears completely black.

“And the interesting thing about the disease is that it was not a blinding disease. So, you barely see any blind people,” he said. “But, the skin reactions, there are very severe skin reactions, but basically there is no blindness.”   

Scientists from the Carter Center, a U.S.-based NGO focused on health, human rights, and democracy initiatives, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attribute the global progress in eliminating the disease to ivermectin, the de-worming medication.

Experts like Dr. Mark Eberhard, a senior microbiologist with the CDC’s Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, said that this medicine – all on its own, is a bit of a miracle worker. 

“Just to clarify and be really clear, that when given long enough, often enough and to a high percentage of the population, ivermectin can not only control the disease, but you can interrupt transmission,” he said.

According to the Carter Center, river blindness in Africa accounts for more than 99 percent of cases worldwide.

And within Africa, the World Bank estimates that more than 102 million people are at risk of the disease.

You May Like

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Russia’s Prosecutor General to Review Legality of Baltics Independence

Move, announced Tuesday, has alarmed Baltic States and strained even further their increasingly tense ties with Moscow More

US Urged to Keep Up Pressure on Cuba Rights

Communist government continues to hold dozens of political prisoners, tightly restricts freedom of expression, uses threats, intimidation to discourage critics, according to activist groups More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs