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Other Countries Can Learn From Colombia’s Success In Eliminating River Blindness

Alba Lucia Morales Castro, health education adviser with the Carter Center’s Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA), writes in The Guardian’s “Global Development Professionals Network” blog about how “Colombia recently became the first country in the Americas to wipe out onchocerciasis (river blindness) and the first in the world to be granted ‘verification of elimination’ status by the [WHO].” She outlines several critical components of Colombia’s eradication program, including using medicine to treat the disease and “the marshaling of large networks of health workers and community volunteers to teach their neighbors how to prevent the disease.” Castro discusses the work of OEPA in other countries in the region, noting “[t]ransmission has stopped in Ecuador, Mexico, and Guatemala, and each country is working to get official elimination verification by the WHO.” She concludes, “OEPA’s lessons and successes have also served as an inspiration for a new Carter Center goal: to eliminate river blindness in the areas we assist in Africa, where nearly all of the world’s river blindness remains,” and to “overtur[n] decades of scientific belief that elimination in Africa was impossible” (10/1).