Onchocerciasis (river blindness) is found mostly in Africa, along major river valleys. This disease is caused by a worm transmitted by the blackfly that breeds in rivers. The adult fly lives on human blood. Harmful effects are mainly due to the embryos which invade the skin where they cause severe lesions that may culminate in blindness. About 20 million people around the world have this disease. In seven countries in the Volta basin - Dahomey, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Togo, and Upper Volta - approximately one million have the disease and at least 70 thousand of them are blind or with poor sight. The United Nations Development Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Health Organization are helping the Governments of the Volta basin to implement a twenty-year programme that is aimed at eradicating river blindness which is obstructing the progress of the people in this region.
A victim of river blindness being led through a sugar plantation to his village in Banfora. [c. 1974]