• picture
  • picture
  • picture
  • picture
Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Health Note/Averting River Blindness

Air Date: Week of

stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

This month, the World Health Organization marks the 30th anniversary of its campaign against river blindness, once the scourge of West Africa. Living on Earth’s Diane Toomey reports.


CURWOOD: Just ahead, if walls could talk, they’d be giving a lecture at Oberlin’s new environmental studies building. First, this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.


TOOMEY: This month, the World Health Organization marks the end of its nearly 30-year campaign against river blindness, a disease that once ravaged the people of West Africa. River blindness is caused by a parasitic worm that can survive up to 14 years in the human body. The worms are transmitted through the bite of black flies that live near water. The parasite can cause lesions of the eye that can lead to blindness.

When the campaign began, more than one million people in West Africa suffered from the disease. In high impact areas, one-third of the population had severe vision impairment and up to 10 percent were completely blind. In addition, many farm fields in the region were abandoned out of fear of contracting river blindness.

The effort to end the scourge began with the elimination of black fly larvae. More than half a million square miles were sprayed with insecticide. In addition, a pharmaceutical company donated a new drug that proved to be effective against the disease. Today, the parasite has been practically wiped out in West Africa. Aside from putting an end to the physical misery, the success of the program has meant that more than 60 million acres of fertile land can now be recultivated.

That’s this week’s health update. I’m Diane Toomey.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Samite of Uganda, “Munomuno” THE BEST OF WORLD MUSIC (Rhino, 1993)]



Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Newsletter [Click here]

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth