Vincent has lived with River Blindness for many years and has permanently lost the sight in one eye. He is scared that his children will get infected too. Without treatment, they are all at risk from this blinding infection.
Yes, I’d like to help protect a family like Vincent’s from the threat of River Blindness:
What is River Blindness?
River Blindness is the second most common way to go blind due to infection. The infection is spread by blackflies, breeding in fast flowing rivers, which carry a parasite. When they find a human host, the parasites reproduce, spreading millions of larvae through the human body, including the eyes.
When the larvae reach the eyes, they cause unbearable itching, painful inflammation and scarring which, if left for too long, can lead to permanent blindness.
Right now in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), central Africa, there are approximately 40 million people living with the constant threat of this disease.
It is a horrible way to go blind. However, with your help, we can administer preventative medication so people don’t have to live in fear of this disease and the blindness that can result from it.
Vincent, who lives with his family in a remote village in the DRC knows only too well what it is like to live with River Blindness. He contracted the disease while working by a fast-flowing river for seven years, where the blackflies breed. He said:
“I was working outside and there are many flies who can easily bite you. I got those nodules under my skin, my skin was itching severely. I got headaches and my eyes started watering. All that came progressively, over a long time."
Vincent is scared that his children might also contract River Blindness, especially since they help with fetching water from the river. Like many people living in developing countries, Vincent is unable to afford medication.
A preventive medicine called Mectizan that has been donated for free to CBM is the solution to prevent River Blindness.
This medication kills the worm larvae in the body and stops them from causing damage. However, it isn’t a vaccine and the dose needs topping up to stop adult worms from reproducing. People in high risk areas need to take Mectizan at least once a year, for 10 – 15 years to maintain immunity.
Though it’s too late to restore sight to Vincent’s left eye, his right eye has been saved, thanks to Mectizan. But his entire family, and many others like them, need to take Mectizan every single year to keep River Blindness at bay.
Vincent says: “I want to thank all those who help, and I beg them to continue with their support, because the medication helps us, it heals our bodies and gives us strength to help our families. I wish that my children remain healthy…I hope they have always good eyes.”
Seeking out those remote and rural communities in the DRC, where people are at risk, and administering the medication remains a challenge. Conflict and unrest in the country makes getting medication to those who need it difficult. Once it reaches its destination, Community Outreach Volunteers need to be trained and equipped to distribute Mectizan properly.
Madleine Mukana, one of CBM’s Outreach Volunteers who distributes Mectizan relies on your support.
“I’m happy to help my community get treatment. Mectizan, taken at least once a year, prevents blindness, itching and nodules. I had the itching myself in the past and after taking Mectizan it disappeared! We are fighting blindness and it makes our life better,” she remarked.