• Aug 10, 2021 . 1 min Read
  • Uganda championing elimination of River Blindness in Africa

Dr Henry Mwebesa, the director general health services at the health ministry
Cecilia Okoth
Journalist @New Vision

Uganda has freed an additional 38,450 people from River Blindness based on the current World Health Organisation guidelines. 

 This success brings the country close to achieving its elimination goal of the disease nationwide by 2025, according to Dr Henry Mwebesa, the director general health services at the health ministry.  

“Two more river blindness foci met the WHO criteria for eliminating the disease by completing a minimum of three years’ surveillance after halting ivermectin mass drug administration.

The two foci and total populations include the Wadelai in Pakwach district with a population of about 25,232 people and Nyamugasani in Kasese district with 13,218 people,” Mwebesa said.

This was announced at the fourteenth meeting of the Uganda Onchocerciasis Elimination Expert Advisory Committee of the ministry of health, held virtually from August 3 to 5,2021. 

The two foci in Pakwach and Kasese now join eight other foci which have eliminated the disease in the districts of Kyenjojo, Kabarole, Mbale, Sironko, Manafwa and Bududa.

 Others successful districts include Kagadi, Hoima, Kikuube, Kamwenge, Rubirizi, Buhweju, Ibanda, Bushenyi, Mitooma, Obongi, Jinja, Mukono, Kamuli, Mayuge, and Kayunga. 

River Blindness, also known as Onchocerciasis is a vector-borne disease transmitted by black flies, which breed in fast-flowing rivers. It causes severe eye and skin diseases that may result in blindness. 

 The disease is endemic in 40 districts of Uganda with about 4.7 million people at risk, excluding districts in the Victoria Nile focus that achieved elimination in the early 1970s. 

Government launched the national onchocerciasis elimination policy in 2007. 

The strategy used to eliminate river blindness from Uganda is the mass treatment to affected communities with ivermectin twice a year and vector control elimination where feasible. 

As of today, it is estimated that 4.2million people are no longer at risk of river blindness. 

“Government in cooperation with neighbouring countries of DRC and South Sudan continues to promote cross-border river blindness activities,” Mwebesa said. 

He said the mass treatment of river blindness for refugees in endemic areas is scheduled to take place in October this year. 


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