Other Public Health Inititatives

African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) [i,r]

In 1995, APOC was founded by NGDOs and sponsoring UN agencies, with WHO as the executing agency and the World Bank as the fiscal agency. This program operated on a much broader scale than the OCP, involving the active participation of 19 target countries in Africa, each country's own Ministry of Health, the affected communities themselves, international local non-governmental development organizations (NGDOs), and the private sector (namely, Merck & Co.). The strategy was Community-Directed Treatment with Ivermectin (CDTI), aimed toward the education and empowerment of local communities, along with insecticide spraying in a few isolated loci. Within 7 years of operation, APOC accomplished 107 ongoing projects and the treatment of over 27 million people in 16 countries and still aimed to "treat 90 million people annually in 19 countries, protecting an at-risk population of 109 million, and to prevent 43,000 cases of blindness every year."

Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA) [i]

A regional initiative founded in 1992, OEPA aimed to interrupt morbidity and transmission of onchocerciasis in the six endemic countries in Central and South America. Groups involved included PAHO (the Western branch of WHO), Merck & Co., the CDC, and NGDOs like the Carter Center and Lions Club International Foundation. The strategy was to encourage endemic countries to provide sustained ivermectin mass treatment ever six months and reach at least 85% of the 503,285 people at risk of disease. During 2002, the six national programs provided a total of 749,182 ivermectin treatments. All target countries achieved beyond 85% treatment coverage, except for Venezuela, where 65% of at-risk persons received treatment.

The River Blindness Foundation, Houston TX [h]

The goal of this organizaion is to "get ivermectin to all who need it" and work to stop the hoarding, selling, and counterfeiting of ivermectin. The group was founded by Dr. William Baldwin, dean of the College of Optometry at the University of Houston, and John Moores, former chairman of BMC Software. Another important leader is Donald Easum, former U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso and Nigeria and former head of the African-American Institute.

Other Initiatives by Merck & Co. [s]

Since their initial involvement with the OCP, which began in 1978, Merck & Co. has freely donated Mectizan® to millions of other people around the world. In 1998, Merck & Co. expanded donation program to countries where lymphatic filariasis, loiasis, and onchocerciasis are co-endemic. Their treatments have also reached the Western Hemisphere, making their efforts one of the most widespread humanitarian programs in history.

The Carter Center [x,y]

This human rights organization's River Blindness Program is part of the global effort to eliminate the disease as a public health problem by 2007. The Carter Center is one of the few organizations fighting onchocerciasis in both hemispheres. It was founded in Atlanta, Georgia, by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1982. On 19 May 2004, the Carter Center accepted $1 million donated by Merck & Co. for programs in Latin America. In November 2003, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave the Carter Center a $10 million grant to fight the disease.

Lions Club International Foundation (LCIF) [x]

LCIF's SightFirst program fights preventable and reversible blindness around the world by building hospitals and clinics; training doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers; distributing medicine; and raising awareness of eye disease. Lions are recognized worldwide for their service to the blind and visually impaired, a service which began when Helen Keller challenged the Lions at their 1925 international convention to become "knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness."

Sight Savers International [aa]

This multinational charity organization based in the United Kingdom works alongside local organisations and governments to teach basic eye care skills and hygiene to adults and children. Volunteers help to fund eye screening camps, operations, treatments, education, surgical training, as well as supporting rehabilitation programs. For instance, Sightsavers help distribute Mectizan tablets to endemic communities.


If you know of another organization fighting onchocerciasis whom you would like to see recognized on this website, please contact us!

A doctor in Ghana prepares ivermectin tablets for distribution. Photo courtesy of WHO/TDR.

Community Distributors are trained to determine which patients can receive treatment and how much. This young boy is over 90 cm tall but cannot touch his ear by reaching his opposite hand over his head, so he is ineligible. Photo courtesy of WHO/TDR.

This boy shows the Community Distributor that he has swallowed his ivermectin tablet. Photo courtesy of WHO/TDR.

Women gather at a village meeting in the Sudan to learn about river blindness through a program in Community-Directed Treatment with Ivermectin. Photo courtesy of WHO/TDR.