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Photos from Sightsavers river blindness projects feature at prominent research event

November 2020

A selection of Sightsavers photographs featured as part of the Coalition for Operational Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases (COR-NTD) conference.

A selection of photographs from three of Sightsavers’ river blindness projects featured in the COR-NTD photo gallery during the virtual annual conference, which ran from 12-14 November 2020. The images highlighted operational research projects from a variety of partners’ work across the globe. View the galleries below to see our photos and learn more about the projects they showcase.

Onchocerciasis Elimination Mapping (OEM) project in Mozambique

The OEM project is an operational research project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented by Sightsavers. In November 2019, the project expanded across Mozambique to help assess the prevalence of river blindness in the country. Mozambique represents the largest OEM implementation to date, where mapping took place in seven districts and more than 10,200 people were surveyed. This is the first time river blindness has been surveyed in Mozambique using modern techniques.

Reaching semi-nomadic groups using a test and treat strategy in the West region of Cameroon

In Massangam in the West region of Cameroon, nomadic communities regularly move around, living in different areas at different times of the year. This means they can miss out on mass drug administration (MDA) programmes to treat and prevent river blindness. It’s essential these communities receive the medicine because their camps are mostly set up near riverbanks, which puts them at higher risk of being bitten by the disease-carrying flies that breed near fast-flowing water.

Sightsavers has embarked on a new research project, involving multiple activities, to engage with the nomadic communities. These include using guides and drug distributors from the nomadic community, creating materials in the local language (Fulfulde) with help from language experts, and using satellite imagery to find where nomadic camps are located.

Support for river blindness elimination in Togo

In March 2020, the outbreak of COVID-19 meant pausing NTD field work, treatments and surveys. Thankfully, Sightsavers, in collaboration with partners and donors, reacted swiftly to adapt a World Health Organization (WHO) risk assessment tool for the context of NTDs. This risk assessment and mitigation action tool, known as RAMA, has enabled us and government partners to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 and restart NTD activities.

One of the projects able to resume were black fly-collection surveys in Togo. These surveys are crucial to find out if river blindness, which is spread by the bite of an infected black fly, has been eliminated in a particular region and therefore if mass drug administration (MDA) can be stopped, bringing the country closer to achieving elimination. Training for the collection surveys implemented measures including temperature checks for attending a training, hand washing stations, social distancing and wearing of masks, to keep the risk of COVID-19 low.

In addition to having photos featured in the COR-NTD photo gallery, Sightsavers also took part in nine sessions during this year’s conference. The sessions covered a variety of our NTD activities, including a session on ‘reaching hard-to-reach populations with MDA’ and one on ‘clearing the hurdles for river blindness elimination’.

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