River Blindness Eliminated In 6 Critical Areas In Uganda - WHO

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In short
The Ministry of Health together with the World Health Organisation (WHO) have announced elimination of Onchocerciasis commonly known as River Blindness in six areas in Uganda.

The Ministry of Health together with the World Health Organisation (WHO) have announced elimination of Onchocerciasis commonly known as River Blindness in six areas in Uganda.
 
These six areas include Wadelai in Nebbi district, Itwara in Kabarole and Kyenjojo districts, Mt Elgon covering districts of Manafwa, Mbale, Sironko and Bududa, Mpamba-Nkusi in Kibale district, Imaramagambo in Bushenyi and Maracha-Terego in Maracha district.
 
Uganda is currently seeking to eliminate River blindness in nine out of the 18 affected areas known as foci found in remote areas mainly along the Western border. This is because the black flies or vectors that cause River blindness breed as larvae in fast flowing rivers and streams and bite humans near these sites.
                                                                          
Dr Miriam Nanyunja, Disease Prevention and Control Advisor at WHO, estimates about 20 districts to be affected by the disease in Uganda with a population of 2.5 million people at risk of infection.
 
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Human Oncocerciasis is a vector borne disease endemic in parts of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and Latin America. It is caused by a filarial nematode worm known as Onchocerca volvulus. Chronic infection causes itching and disfiguring lesions of the skin and produces eye lesions that can lead to irreversible blindness.
 
The 6th Ugandan Onchocerciasis elimination expert advisory committee is now considering three other foci to bring the number to nine out of the 18 affected areas by 2020.
 
The areas include Nyamugasani in Kasese district, Kashoya-Kitomi in Buhweju, Rubirizi, Ibanda and Kamwenge districts and Wambabya-Rwamarongo in Hoima district. However, while this may come as good news, the Director General Health Services, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, notes that cross border movement especially from the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan remains a challenge.
 
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The cross border movement from the DRC greatly impacts on the foci of Budongo in the districts of Hoima, Masindi and Buliisa. Movement from the DRC affects the foci of Bwindi in Kabale, Kanungu and Kisoro districts. Mid North areas of Pader, Kitgum Lamwo, Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya, Oyam and Lira are affected by movement from South Sudan. Nyagak Bondo foci affect districts of Nebbi, Zombo and Arua.
 
In Madi, foci movement of people from South Sudan affects districts of Moyo and Adjumani.
Other affected areas include Lhubira in Kasese with movement from DRC, West Nile areas of Yumbe, Koboko and Arua affected by movement from South Sudan and DRC.
 
The elimination strategy is by mass drug administration to people above five years in the affected areas with ivermectin drug. However Dr Nanyunja says the challenge they face is that not all residents receive the medication especially in Northern Uganda.
 
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Dr Aceng also notes that the post conflict districts still present a great challenge in Uganda and require special attention in terms of social mobilization and technical support. Most of the affected districts were asked by the Ministry of Health to sign a declaration to eliminate the disease but implementation is still a challenge.