Uganda Announces Major Milestone in Effort to Eliminate River Blindness
The Ugandan Ministry of Health announced this week that, for the first time ever, there is no longer active, ongoing transmission of onchocerciasis, a neglected tropical disease (NTD) also known as river blindness, in the country.
Two focus areas in Uganda – which are home to more than 300,000 Ugandans – reported elimination of river blindness for the first time. They join 12 foci that have already eliminated the disease.
“We applaud Uganda for its leadership in eliminating river blindness and its achievement of this major milestone,” said Moses Katabarwa, Senior NTD Advisor and onchocerciasis expert at RTI International. “Onchocerciasis is notoriously difficult and complicated to eliminate. While some cross-border foci in Uganda will continue to receive treatment, the lack of transmission nationwide is an exciting step in the journey to elimination.”
This is one important milestone on the country’s path to elimination. Only three foci remain at risk of river blindness, in part because of their cross-border nature. Ongoing surveys of children and flies that transmit the disease are helping Uganda detect and respond where necessary.
The Ugandan government launched a national effort to eliminate onchocerciasis in 2007, conducting routine distribution of ivermectin (Mectizan® donated by Merck & Co., Inc.) to affected areas, as well as activities to reduce the population of black flies that spreads the disease. This notable announcement comes after the 15th meeting of the Uganda Onchocerciasis Elimination Expert Advisory Committee, a body of national and international experts helping to advance Uganda’s efforts to eliminate onchocerciasis.
With USAID, RTI has partnered with Uganda since 2006 to help the country eliminate NTDs. Through USAID’s Act to End NTDs | East Program, RTI International and The Carter Center are supporting Uganda’s efforts to eliminate five of the most prevalent NTDs, including river blindness.