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Riverblindness in Africa

Taming the Lion's Stare

Bruce Benton
foreword by James D. Wolfensohn

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The remarkable story of how a large public-private partnership worked to control and defeat riverblindness—a scourge which had devastated rural communities and impeded socioeconomic development throughout much of Sub-Saharan Africa for generations.

Riverblindness (onchocerciasis)—a pervasive neglected disease, transmitted by the blackfly, that causes horrific itching, disfigurement, and loss of vision—is also known as "lion's stare" in reference to the fixed, lifeless glare of the eyes blinded by the disease. The disease has destroyed countless lives for generations, particularly in Africa. Its…

The remarkable story of how a large public-private partnership worked to control and defeat riverblindness—a scourge which had devastated rural communities and impeded socioeconomic development throughout much of Sub-Saharan Africa for generations.

Riverblindness (onchocerciasis)—a pervasive neglected disease, transmitted by the blackfly, that causes horrific itching, disfigurement, and loss of vision—is also known as "lion's stare" in reference to the fixed, lifeless glare of the eyes blinded by the disease. The disease has destroyed countless lives for generations, particularly in Africa. Its effects are so devastating that the areas where it is most common (large expanses of land around rivers where the fly breeds) end up abandoned as villages move farther and farther away to more arid environments in order to escape the fly-biting, and hence the disease. The disease devastates communities from multiple angles: a large portion of each stricken community's population is disabled, often permanently blind in the prime of life, placing a burden on the rest, and communities' efforts to escape infection force them to move to areas where farming is less productive.

To defeat riverblindness would not only release these communities from the heavy toll of the disease, but would also open more fertile areas in Africa to be inhabited, thus alleviating extreme poverty. These were the goals of the World Bank, led by then-president Robert McNamara, when launching a partnership to combat riverblindness more than forty-five years ago. In this book, Bruce Benton tells the remarkable story of that partnership's success. An authoritative account of the launch and scale-up of the effort, the book covers the transformation of the fight from a top-down high-tech operation to a grassroots drug treatment program covering all of endemic Africa. How, Benton asks, did the effort become such a unique partnership of UN agencies, donors, NGOs, a major pharmaceutical company, universities, African governments, and the stricken communities themselves?

Highlighting the importance of disease control in alleviating absolute poverty and promoting development, Benton examines the key developments, individuals, and notable qualities of the partnership in realizing success. He also extracts lessons from this particular story for addressing future challenges through partnership. Drawing on Benton's twenty years of experience managing the riverblindness program for the World Bank, along with extensive research and interviews with 100+ players in the program, Riverblindness in Africa is the first and only book of its kind. The story of the battle has an epic scale, both in terms of geography and the vast number of people and organizations involved. It provides a template for a broad range of global health efforts and is an excellent example of evolving, increasingly effective approaches to disease control and elimination.

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Riverblindness in Africa

Bruce Benton
foreword by James D. Wolfensohn

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Reviews

Reviews

Riverblindness in Africa describes one of the great successes in the history of medicine. Guided by research and surveillance, the riverblindness program continuously changed and adapted its strategy to defeat riverblindness, a disease among poor people in poor countries. The book should be mandatory reading for students of global health.

In this book, Benton combines a huge amount of research with his unique insight into the evolution of riverblindness programs during his career at the World Bank. For those interested in the complexities of managing disease control programs and the need for strong partnerships, this is a must-read.

The authoritative record and historical account of one of the most ambitious and successful parasite control approaches from someone who has been a key part of onchocerciasis control from just about the beginning.

An inspiring and essential contribution to the literature on international development and public health.

Comprehensive, detailed, inspiring! Highlights how championing trust in the affected communities and close collaboration among all interested parties are essential for success.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
328
ISBN
9781421439662
Illustration Description
26 b&w photos, 11 line drawings
Table of Contents

Foreword, by James D. Wolfensohn
Preface
Acknowledgments
Chapter 1. The Challenge
Chapter 2. Launching and Scaling Up the Onchocerciasis Control Program
Chapter 3. Expansion and Rescue
Chapter 4. The Game

Foreword, by James D. Wolfensohn
Preface
Acknowledgments
Chapter 1. The Challenge
Chapter 2. Launching and Scaling Up the Onchocerciasis Control Program
Chapter 3. Expansion and Rescue
Chapter 4. The Game Changer—Ivermectin
Chapter 5. Getting Mectizan to Africa, Concluding the OCP
Chapter 6. A Closer Look at Socioeconomic Development
Chapter 7. Widening the Effort to All of Africa
Chapter 8. Deepening and Widening the Objective
Chapter 9. Learning from the Past, Looking to the Future
People Interviewed
Acronyms and Abbreviations
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bios
Bruce Benton
Featured Contributor

Bruce Benton

Riverblindness in Africa is the culmination of Bruce Benton's forty-year career focused on development assistance for Africa. Much of that career involved leading a World Bank–sponsored partnership to eliminate the disease throughout Africa. His leadership on riverblindness was recognized by the World Bank president with a Special Presidential Award in 2000. Benton began his career as a Peace...