The Federal Government has said that it has achieved the criteria to stop the treatment for river blindness in Imo, Abia, Enugu, and Anambra states, representing more than 18.9 million people.
The Federal Government said the states joined 10 others that have achieved interrupted transmission of river blindness, enabling Nigeria to stop treatment for more than 28 million people, more than any other country in the world.
Onchocerciasis, commonly known as “river blindness”, is caused by the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus. It is transmitted to humans through exposure to repeated bites of infected blackflies of the genus Simulium
Symptoms include severe itching, disfiguring skin conditions, and visual impairment, including permanent blindness.
The PUNCH reports that Nigeria has the largest population at-risk for river blindness of all countries globally, with more than 100 million people in 32 states and the Federal Capital Territory affected.
Nigeria has, however, also made the greatest strides globally in eliminating the disease.
Chair of Nigeria’s Onchocerciasis Elimination Committee, Professor Bright Nwoke said, “I’m proud that Nigeria, once again, serves as a beacon of inspiration not only for river blindness elimination globally but also for all the countries around the world working to eliminate neglected tropical disease,”
Also, the Chief of Party for Nigeria on USAID’s Act to End Neglected tropical diseases, East program, led by RTI International, Dr Wangeci Thuo, said Nigeria continues to achieve incredible progress in its effort to eliminate river blindness and serves as an example of what is possible.
“This latest announcement is the largest one-time achievement in the history of river blindness. We applaud the Nigerian government and health system’s dedication to freeing its people from the risk of this devastating disease.”
On his part, the Programme Director for The Carter Centre in Nigeria, Dr. Abel Eigege said, “We thought we would treat onchocerciasis indefinitely. It was a daunting challenge that had plagued generations.”