River blindness (Onchocerciasis) is a disease caused by a parasitic worm.
The worm is transmitted by black flies which breed along fast flowing rivers in West and Central Africa and Latin America.
People living and working near these rivers are bitten countless times and infected with a worm that forms a nodule under the skin.
When it breeds, thousands of tiny ‘microfilariae’ – tiny worms - spread throughout the body eventually to the skin and the eyes.
As the microfilaria die, they cause itching so severe that people make special knives to scratch the skin and pull them out.
If people are not treated they face irreversible blindness.
cbm is a key player in the distribution of Mectizan, the drug which prevents river blindness.
It's so simple to end Ishaku's agony
The solution to River Blindness is really very simple.
One dose of two tablets will keep a boy like 9-year old Ishaku safe from River Blindness for an entire year.
In his village beside a little river in Nigeria, Ishaku was bitten by black river flies. They infected him with the Onchocerciasis parasite.
The parasite built a colony under his skin, which pumped tiny worms into his body -thousands every day.
When these worms die they cause terrible suffering, such as a grotesque skin condition they call "leopard skin".
The itching is so intense people dig into their own skin with knives, trying to find relief. Nothing helps. The pain, the headaches, are unrelenting and inescapable.
The worms swarmed into Ishaku's eyeballs. "I can feel something in my eye moving around," he said. "It really hurts."
Without treatment, those worms will eat his optic nerve, destroying his vision.
Ishaku's whole family is infected. Ishaku's grandparents are already blind.
For families struggling in poverty, blindness is devastating. When parents cannot work, children suffer and starve, losing all hope of schooling for a better future.
One dose of 2 tablets a year is all the protection he needs. Getting those tablets into his hands costs just 50 cents.
Facts about river blindness
• Worldwide, 125 million people are at risk of river blindness
• 18 million people are already infected, mostly in West and Central Africa with 500,000 permanently blinded by the disease
• River blindness is the world’s second leading infectious cause of blindness
It costs just 50 cents per person to provide the medication to prevent river blindness.