Guatemala has Conquered River Blindness
Onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness, is a parasitic disease that afflicts the rural poor. It is caused by a worm that is spread from person to person through the bites of Simulium black flies that breed in rapid-flowing rivers and streams. The disease can cause intense itching, eye damage, and irreversible blindness, reducing an individual’s ability to work and learn. Worldwide, an estimated 120 million are at risk of being infected and 270,000 have been blinded by the disease, mostly in Africa. In addition to Africa and Latin America, onchocerciasis also is present in Yemen.
Since 1993, Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) has awarded more than US$33 million to support the distribution of river blindness medicine, Mectizan®, to approximately 251 million people in 15 African and Latin American countries. SightFirst has worked in close partnership since 1999 with The Carter Center—a leader in the fight to end river blindness.
On September 29, 2106, Guatemala’s minister of health, Dr. Lucrecia Hernandez Mack, announced that the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially verified the elimination of onchocerciasis from Guatemala. Guatemala is now the fourth country in the Americas to be verified free of this disease, after Colombia (2013), Ecuador (2014), and Mexico (2015).
LCIF congratulates the people and government of Guatemala, The Carter Center’s Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA), and many devoted Lions on this monumental achievement!