Over three million people in Uganda are at risk of getting river blindness, a Health Ministry official has said.
Addressing the Carter Centre conference on river blindness in Kampala yesterday, the Director General of Health Services, Dr Nathan Kenya Mugisha, said the disease is an epidemic in over 30 districts, affecting 1.8 million people who are now on treatment.
"The number of people suffering from the disease has grown because of the increase in the number of black flies that are hatching in forests surrounding the 30 districts, "Dr Mugisha said.
Mr Mugisha said majority of the victims are in rural areas, of which most are subsistence farmers. "This has affected agricultural development, causing hunger, poverty and school drop-out" he added.
Due to the risk posed by the disease, the government, with support from partners like the World Health Organisation, the Carter Centre Sightsavers International and Research Triangle International in January 2007 launched the river blindness elimination policy to eliminating the disease in the country.
Ms Peace Hasomugisha, the country representative for Carter Centre-Uganda, said the policy intended to eliminate the disease through semi-annual treatment with drugs using community-directed treatment strategy and vector control.
She said this was initially in six centres where information on the disease prevalence was available. Those include Budongo, Bwindi, Kashoya-Kitomi, Wambabya-Rwamarongo and Wambei.