Mozambique Launches First-Ever Expert Committee to Advance Onchocerciasis Elimination

03 Apr 2024
Representatives at the first-ever meeting of the Mozambique Onchocerciasis Elimination Expert Advisory Committee. Photo credit: RTI International/Zulficar Bay

Mozambique has taken an important step forward towards eliminating river blindness, also known as onchocerciasis, with the launch of their first-ever expert elimination committee for the disease. This debilitating disease, caused by parasitic worms and spread by blackflies, disproportionately affects people in remote areas near fast-flowing rivers. Not only does it cause severe discomfort, but it can also lead to blindness.

Mozambique has been working to advance progress to eliminate onchocerciasis. The formation of the Mozambique Onchocerciasis Elimination Expert Advisory Committee (MOEEAC) signifies a renewed commitment and strong leadership from the government and partners. The committee was formed with support from USAID’s Act to End Neglected Tropical Diseases | East program.

The MOEEAC convenes the Ministry of Health (MOH) with technical experts and committed partners like USAID, World Health Organization, the U.S. Center for Disease Control, the Mectizan Donation Program, and The END Fund, to strategically guide Mozambique towards eliminating river blindness. The inaugural MOEEAC meeting delved deep into this crucial topic, paving the way for a data-driven approach. The participants also examined cross-border onchocerciasis transmission with representatives from Tanzania and Malawi, laboratory and diagnostic requirements, and concluded by creating a comprehensive plan for elimination.

Since 2012, USAID has supported Mozambique’s MOH to reach its NTD control and elimination goals, with a focus on the scale up of mass treatment for trachoma – as a result, more than 7.1 million Mozambicans are no longer at risk for trachoma. Recently, USAID expanded their support for the elimination of onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis in the country.

Mozambique's multi-faceted strategy leverages the expertise of various stakeholders from government, academic, multilateral, private, and nonprofit sectors. This is a significant step forward, not just for Mozambique, but for the global fight against NTDs.

The Mozambique Onchocerciasis Elimination Expert Advisory Committee follows a similar and successful model for National Onchocerciasis Elimination Committees, as seen in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Uganda, and Tanzania, among others. These committees are essential technical bodies in supporting governments in navigating the path to elimination, as outlined in the World Health Organization guidelines.