Criss-crossed by a network of rivers, the savannah grasslands of Kebbi State in Nigeria are home to thousands of volunteers who distribute sight-saving medicine for a neglected tropical disease (NTD) called onchocerciasis, commonly known as river blindness.
Maryam is one such community drug distributor. Trained in a village schoolroom on safe medication management, appropriate dosing, record-keeping, and patient safety measures, Maryam distributes Mectizan® (ivermectin) which is donated by Merck & Co., Inc.* and managed by The Task Force’s Mectizan Donation Program (MDP). The drug treats the disease, prevents people from getting infected, and contributes to interrupting transmission so that the disease can be eliminated forever.
The rivers of Kebbi State are an important source of nourishment and income for people due to a wide diversity of fish. However, the rivers are also a breeding ground for infected black flies which can spread onchocerciasis. The disease causes intense itching, skin disfigurement, and eye lesions that can lead to blindness.
Nigeria accounts for 30% of onchocerciasis cases in Africa. Volunteers like Maryam, supported by MDP, the Nigerian Ministry of Health and Sightsavers, are working to break the cycle of transmission and reduce the risk of disease and potential lifelong disability. Watch the video above to learn more about Maryam and her fellow community drug distributors in Kebbi State.
*Merck & Co., Inc. is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada.