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Emmanuel smiles broadly at the camera.

Meet 60-year-old Emmanuel, he lost his sight while earning a living as a fisherman. How? Due to a disease called river blindness.

River blindness (onchocerciasis) is a disease caused by a parasitic worm transmitted by the bite of a river-breeding black fly. As its name suggests, river blindness can lead to visual impairments and often blindness.

When Emmanuel was younger he earned his living by fishing in the Pru River in his home town of Asubende in Ghana – it’s fishing in his local river that lead to him contracting river blindness. He said: “I noticed a long time ago I had a problem with my eyes but it started gradually, it didn’t come all of a sudden – but week by week.”

As well as eventual blindness, onchocerciasis can cause an intense and unbearable itching that can’t be stopped without treatment. But luckily for Emmanuel, and others in his village, generous donations from people like you have meant that the Mectizan® treatment is now distributed in Absubende, with the help of Sightsavers-supported volunteers.

Emmanuel fishing in the river Pru.

Mectizan® doesn’t only help symptoms, it also protects other people in the village from contracting the disease. Now, thanks to the treatment, Emmanuel’s symptoms have subsided and he is able to work, socialise and earn a living.

I already have blindness, but we are now protecting the others, the little ones. If we do not protect the children from river blindness they could go blind too.

Will you donate today to help us make sure that the people most in need of treatment, like Emmanuel, continue to receive it?

Listen to Jason Beaubien’s full NPR podcast


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