Simon Shauabi never thought mere fly bites could rob him of his sight, but he has now been blind for almost three decades.
Shauabi, who lives in the small community of Kudaru in Kaduna state, northern Nigeria, relies on his grandchildren to provide him with food and with water from the well, but he has never seen what any of them look like.
- Simon Shauabi and his seven-year-old granddaughter Dorcas
Shauabi has onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness. When he first noticed something was wrong, he had no idea what was causing the problem.
“I used to be a farmer – my livelihood was based around working in the fields next to the river,” Shauabi says. “I noticed I was starting to get a lot of bites on my legs and particularly around my feet, which marked the beginning of the problems that I started having. I’ve been blind now for almost 30 years.”
My skin started itching and my eyesight gradually got worse. I hope my granddaughter grows up without ending up blindSimon Shauabi
Shauabi’s symptoms began with a rash. “The skin on my legs started to get red raw and the itching was so bad that sometimes I would scratch them until they bled,” he says.
“I never imagined that this would lead to something much worse. The skin problems started first but gradually my sight got worse and worse until eventually I was completely blind.”
River blindness is transmitted to humans by the bites of black flies, which dwell near fast-flowing rivers. Infection leads to painful skin problems, including severe itching, and can also cause visual impairment and irreversible blindness.
Many communities, such as Kudaru, rely heavily on water from local rivers for drinking, washing and agriculture, which increases the spread of the disease.
- Men seen from a bridge over the Kaduna river, on the border between Nigeria’s Kaduna and Kano states
Shauabi’s situation is not a one-off: 20 years ago, around 50% of the people living in Kudaru had river blindness. The disease became so prevalent that the whole community relocated to an area further away from the river and the threat of the black flies.
River blindness is part of a group of debilitating infections known as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), which affect around one in five people worldwide. They are known as “neglected” because, for the most part, these diseases are not prioritised by governments, do not attract major pharmaceutical funding and fail to spur global awareness movements such as those tackling the Zika and Ebola viruses. Many NTDs are preventable and treatable, yet more than 1 billion people have them.
In Kudaru today, thanks to a collaboration between partners around the globe, there are no new cases. Younger generations in this rural farming community are protected from NTDs thanks to the mass administration of preventive drugs.
- Community-directed distributors Danladi Ishaku and Baraka Ango administer preventive treatment
Simon’s Shauabi’s granddaughter, Dorcas, seven, is one example of this. Standing next to her grandfather, she receives the billionth treatment for NTDs delivered by the international NGO Sightsavers and its partners.
The story of Shauabi and Dorcas demonstrates the generational difference between them and the strides made by the global health community towards eliminating NTDs for good.
My grandfather cannot see, so I have to help him walk and make food. I don’t want other people to suffer like himDorcas
- Dorcas celebrates after receiving the billionth NTD treatment delivered by Sightsavers and its partners
Nigeria has 25% of Africa’s NTD cases. But all over the world, river blindness has robbed parents and grandparents of the chance to see their families. People infected by river blindness and other NTDs often find themselves facing lifelong physical impairment; they may be unable to go to school or work and become trapped in a cycle of poverty and social isolation.
- Dorcas attending school with her friends
The River Essay
822 Words4 Pages
My first memory of ever really, truly living is from when I was two years old. Most people say that when you’re two, you can’t remember anything. But that’s not true. Memories are all about what you remember; not what the other person says what you do or do not.
There was this river that was a mile or two away from our house. My family used to go there a lot. Back in the days of innocence, there really was nothing better to do besides to go and exercise. There were no computers—or, more specifically, computers that worked—or GameBoys (unless you counted the monstrous GameBoy Color) to entertain us. TV might have been an option, but once you’ve seen every single episode of Steve helping Blue figure out the mystery, it gets kind of old.…show more content…
Three of us would always have to ride in the back of the truck—the flatbed—while the other three would be in the front. It wasn’t really so bad to be in the flatbed: I remember watching the stars at night when the tarp wasn’t covering my view; or sticking my head out of one of the gaps of the tarp just to see the sun rise in the morning.
Sunrises and sunsets always fascinated me, especially when we were at the river. The light would reflect off the surface of the water and everything—for once—seemed peaceful. When I was little, and when we still ‘lived’ by the river, we’d go there every Saturday. Me, being the youngest, always found some sort of entertainment there, even if there truly was nothing to do. One day, I just so happened to see a butterfly. Being the simple-minded two-year old I was, I followed it, not paying attention to where the rest of my family was and where I was going. The next thing I know, I was right in the middle of a field of tall grass, which was about a foot and a half above my height.
When little kids are lost, they either do one of the following actions: Cry, or call out for Mommy. In my case, I cried.
I don’t know how long I was lost. It could have been seconds, minutes, or hours. But all I know was that I felt hopelessly lost for what seemed like forever until a breathing thing clouded my view. The golden fur smelled like dirt, and drool dripped to the ground. Even at two years old, I knew