Sir Emeka Offor Orchestrates Elimination of Onchocerciasis

 Mr PeterMr. Peter Onuchukwu was a subsistent farmer in Umuowa Ibu village in Okigwe Local Government Area of Imo state. He was the bread winner of his family as he sold little remainder of his farm produce in the local market and used the money to purchase what he couldn’t provide for his family. Mr. Peter, a sexagenarian, farmed on the farmland near fast flowing river called Ibii River which the people of the community believe to be more fertile than upland. As a farmer in a community endemic to river blindness, he was greatly exposed to black ants’ bites than others in the community. Like many in his community then, he didn’t know anything about river blindness or what causes it, all they knew was some people get blind, swollen legs, genitals and other parts of their bodies in their locality than in other communities around them. In 2001, Mr. Peter started manifesting different symptoms of Onchocerciasis but due to lack of awareness and access to proper medical checkup, he was treated of malaria leaving the disease to develop fully in his body. He went totally blind in 2006 and that brought untold and sudden hardship to his immediate family which prompted his first son’s dropping out of school to fend for the family. Another tragedy struck when his bread winner son was killed in the north by one of the numerous Boko Haram attacks which left his wife to double as the bread winner and nursing wife.

Mrs. Onuchukwu could not hide her limitations in providing for her four remaining children and her husband in addition to managing her husband’s health challenges. This is a snippet of what people pass through in eastern Nigerian communities with fast flowing streams and rivers where river blindness is still endemic. Onchocerciasis or River blindness is one of the most neglected diseases in tropical regions of the world. It is one caused by a filarial worm (Onchocerca Volvulus) which gets into a person’s body as a result of an infected blackfly’s bite. Fast flowing streams encourage the breeding of female blackflies which spread the disease in endemic regions or communities. When someone who is suffering from river blindness is bitten by a female black fly by sucking the blood, tiny filarial worms are also taken in and the fly becomes infected. Then, when the infected blackfly bites another person, it transfers these tiny worms into their new victim which grows into adult worms. These worms go into lump called nodules and produce other tiny worms and are released to other parts of the body and their movement under the skin cause serious itching. The symptoms of this disease include constant itching of the body, leopard skin, painless swelling under the skin, headache, fever, and ultimately blindness. When eyes are shut and vision disappears, life of dependency begins which the burden often times kills the individual before his time. This neglected disease that hides behind its gradual effect has no place to hide anymore as the founder and sole sponsor of Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SEOF), Sir Emeka Offor has decided to eliminate this disease and make Nigeria free from it. On the 12th of June, he will be going into a long term agreement with The Carter Center for this cause. Carter center has been committed to fighting many diseases in many developing countries of the world which Onchocerciasis is one of such diseases. SEOF as a foundation is one that has greatly impacted the lives of individuals in communities and countries as well without limiting itself to any particular area but always looking for ways to bringing succor to suffering millions. It’s no surprise that SEOF is entering into partnership with The Carter Center for the elimination of River blindness in seven remaining states of Nigeria.

Mr and Mrs OnuchukwuThe awareness campaign embarked on by Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SEOF) on River blindness is yielding results as more people in the endemic states are becoming aware of the disease and are embracing preventive measures being provided which will lead to total elimination of this neglected but pernicious disease. Making a difference is one of the ways of investing one’s life as opposed to spending it. Sir Emeka offor has really invested and still invests his life in many different spheres of the society. Taking up the responsibility of eliminating Onchocerciasis from Nigeria in addition to his commitment to ending polio would appear as a burden, but the great philanthropist, Sir Emeka Offor sees it as life being lived in the right form of it.

Obi Ebuka Onochie can be reached via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Abuja