Legatum reacts to news that Niger is on the verge of becoming the first African country to eliminate River Blindness
It was announced at Expo 2020 Dubai that Niger completed the necessary evaluations in line with guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to certify the elimination of onchocerciasis (commonly known as river blindness) — a feat once considered impossible. After over 40 years of work to control or eliminate river blindness in West Africa, the achievement in Niger provides a proof of concept that elimination is possible, not just in West Africa but across the entire continent.
Alan McCormick, Partner and Managing Director at Legatum, said: "A huge milestone has been reached in the fight against neglected tropical diseases with this announcement. The elimination of river blindness in Niger will ensure that children in areas previously endemic are able to go to school, and adults can pursue more work opportunities, bringing greater prosperity to a nation hindered by this neglected disease for too long. All of us at Legatum are hugely grateful to our amazing partners at the END Fund, as well as Bill Gates and initiatives such as the Reaching The Last Mile Fund in Abu Dhabi and the Crown Prince’s Court, for their ongoing commitment to tackling these crucial global issues."
River blindness is a devastating neglected tropical disease (NTD) that causes severe itching, skin discolouration and can lead to irreversible blindness if left untreated. It's a preventable disease that hinders millions of people from going to school, being able to work and from being able to pursue opportunities. It is caused by a parasitic worm transmitted through repeated bites from black flies that live near fast-flowing water. Over 200 million people worldwide are in need of treatment for river blindness, the majority of the burden being in Africa.
Legatum's partners at the END Fund are on a mission to end five of the most prevalent neglected tropical diseases. Since its founding in 2012, along with partners, the END Fund has distributed over 1 billion treatments across 31 countries, performed over 43,000 blindness and disability-preventing surgeries; and trained nearly 3.5 million health workers to pre-empt and treat neglected tropical diseases. They are the only private philanthropic initiative solely dedicated to ending the most common NTDs.
Watch Legatum CEO Mark Stoleson explain how The END Fund came about at a recent conference in Lisbon.