Jacob Danboyi

Jacob Danboyi begins his work day by heading to the office in his white ministry of health work truck, walking the short path to his office, then unloading his papers. While his morning routine in the city of Lafia in Nasarawa State, Nigeria is similar to that of millions of others around the world, his work is not.

Danboyi is passionate about his work. When he was in college, his father began to lose his sight due to river blindness (onchocerciasis), a neglected tropical disease (NTD) common in Nigeria. At the time, there was no treatment for his father’s condition and it was too late to halt the progression of his illness before he became completely blind. This experience ignited Danboyi’s passion for public health service.


A public health professional since 1998, Danboyi is the NTD coordinator for central Nigeria’s Nasarawa State. In this capacity he works with the central state of Nigeria’s government, communities, The Carter Center and the Mectizan® Donation Program (MDP, a program at The Task Force) to help ensure that Merck & Co., Inc.’s* donation of Mectizan gets into the hands of the people who need it.

The donation of Mectizan is overseen by MDP which works to eliminate onchocerciasis, the debilitating disease spread by black-fly bites. Onchocerciasis is commonly known as river blindness because the black fly breeds near fast-flowing streams and rivers, mostly near remote rural villages. The infection can lead to visual impairment and even blindness, as well as skin disease with intense itching and rashes.

Danboyi’s work focuses on onchocerciasis and other NTDs such as lymphatic filariasis (LF), a parasitic disease causing lymphatic swelling of the limbs; trachoma, a bacterial disease also causing eye pain and potentially blindness; and schistosomiasis, a parasitic worm infection that causes pain passing urine and liver enlargement.

Due to the size of Nigeria, which is three times as large as Germany and home to 206 million people, the nation carries the largest NTD burden in all of Africa.

Although Danboyi has worked in public health for more than  20 years and has navigated many challenges, COVID-19 has introduced new and unique challenges that have deeply impacted his work.

The pandemic has affected and delayed supply of medicines and treatment activities,” he said. “There are more resources being channelled towards the pandemic, which means there is resource insecurity for NTD activities.”

In order to keep NTD infections down and local infrastructure intact, he focuses on engaging  communities, schools, and other stakeholders.

“I love helping people in the rural areas,” said Danboyi. “In the village square when people are discussing other issues, I bring in oncho [onchocerciasis]… I bring schisto [schistosomiasis] in.”

In the late 1980s, Nigeria had an estimated 50 million people at risk of NTDs infection.

MDP began in 1987, when Merck & Co., Inc. started donating Mectizan, one of the medicines used to eliminate river blindness and LF. This public-private partnership housed at The Task Force works with multiple stakeholders, including the World Health Organization, governments, endemic communities, academia, nonprofits and others to distribute Mectizan and coordinate technical and operational activities.

In 2017, Nasarawa State was declared free from transmission of river blindness, thanks to the efforts of Danboyi and his dedicated team, with support from the Nasarawa State Ministry of Health, MDP and The Carter Center. This milestone has motivated Danboyi to join the effort to replicate the success in other affected areas.

My inspiration to keep going is due to the huge success achieved already. Pandemic or no pandemic, I have to observe the protocols and keep fighting on,” said Danboyi.

Watch this video to learn more about Danboyi's work.

Photo #3 courtesy of Oni Abimbola for Shutterstock. All other photos and video courtesy of MDP.

*Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., U.S.A., is known as MSD outside the USA and Canada.

Photo #3 courtesy of Oni Abimbola for Shutterstock. All other photos and video courtesy of MDP.

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