MSD mark mini-triumph in river blindness battle

Published 23/10/2012 | 15:08

Gerry Kerr from Fighting Blindness and Benedetta Nicastro, MSD's Global Ambassador for the Mectizan Donation Programme, speaking to staff at MSD Swords.

A SWORDS company has joined with an Irish charity to mark significant progress in eliminating one of the leading causes of preventable blindness worldwide MSD, along with the Fighting Blindness organisation and global colleagues, are celebrating the battle against river blindness (onchoceriasis).

To date, disease transmission has been interrupted – meaning no new cases have been identified – in four of the six affected countries in Latin America and nine regions in five African countries. The MDP also celebrated a major landmark in 2011 when Columbia became the first country to apply for World Health Organisation certification for the elimination of river blindness transmission, after suspending treatment with the drug Mectizan in 2007. For 25 years, the Mectizan donation programme has provided the drug for the treatment of river blindness. In October 1987, MSD made the decision to donate as much Mectizan as needed in order to eliminate the disease as a public health problem. Since then, over one billion treatments have been donated to more than 117,000 communities in 28 countries in Africa, six countries in Latin America, and in Yemen. As part of the celebrations, MSD sites across Ireland displayed a photographic exhibition depicting the work of the MDP in Burundi. The exhibition provides a glimpse into what it means to be blind in Burundi and how the MDP is helping to make a difference in the provinces of Bubanza, Rutana and Bururi. The exhibition was shot and created by award-winning photojournalist Stefano De Luigi who spent five years documenting the realities of life for blind and visually impaired people worldwide. In addition to the exhibitions, sites hosted guest speakers from Fighting Blindness as well as global MSD colleagues who champion the MDP around the world. Commenting on the 25th anniversary of the MDP, Tony Pusic, Site Manager, MSD in Swords, said: 'It is incredible that after 25 years the Mectizan Donation Programme is still going strong, making a real difference across the world as it gets closer to achieving its longheld goal of eliminating river blindness. 'Living with sight loss in Ireland presents challenges each and every day but to live with the same condition in a developing country has a devastating effect on the individual and their families.'

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