AfDB Approves US$ 24.5 Million for Onchocerciasis Control Program in Africa

15/07/2008
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Tunis, 15 July 2008 – The Board of Directors of the African Development Fund (ADF), the soft loan window of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group, in Tunis on Tuesday approved a grant of 15 million Units of Account (UA*) about US$ 24.5 million to finance Phase II and the phasing out stage of the Onchocerciasis (river blindness) Control Programme (APOC) in 19 African countries.

The APOC aims at eliminating by 2015, Onchocerciasis as a public-health problem in the African countries where the disease is endemic, with a view to improving the well-being of people in such areas while reducing the incidence of the disease and increasing productivity.

The programme will involve strengthening community-directed treatment with Ivermectin (CDTI), integrating and implementing several joint health programs, strengthening the implementation strategy in post-conflict countries, building capacity and surveillance, monitoring, evaluation and research activities.

The main expected outcomes of the programs include the prevention of 15 million DALYs (disability adjusted life year) by 2015, a 68% reduction in the rate of river blindness over the 1995-2015 period and  a reduction in the prevalence of severe itching as a result of Onchocerciasis from 49% in 2008 to 1% in 2015.

The target beneficiaries are communities in endemic areas of the countries concerned: Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan as well as Mozambique, Rwanda, and Kenya, which do not systematically receive funding as their status is more of a political partnership with APOC.

Onchocerciasis is caused by a parasite, Onchocerca volvulus (OV). It is transmitted to people through the bite of a small black fly, simulid or Simulium damnosum. The seriousness of the disease lies in the blindness and the severe skin lesions that it can cause. The Bank has been participating in Onchocerciasis control programs since the establishment of the first Onchocerciasis Control Program (OCP) in West Africa (1974 to 2000). The African Program for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) was established in 1996.

APOC is a regional program which is funded through a trust fund managed by the World Bank. This financing modality chosen at the establishment of the first OCP program in 1974, has been maintained because of the satisfactory results achieved in the implementation of the program. It takes into account the AfDB’s poverty reduction strategy while the activities are consistent with the national health policy objectives of the governments concerned implemented through their National Health Development Plans (NHDP).

The total cost of Phase II and phasing-out of the program is estimated at UA 74.70 million. This excludes the costs of drugs supplied free-of-charge by the pharmaceutical company, Merck & Co., which reaffirmed its commitment at the Joint Action Forum (JAF) of program stakeholders in December 2007. The program will be funded by the ADF, other donors, the governments of participating countries, and NGOs. The ADF grant will meet 20% of total cost of the programme. Other donors will contribute UA 44.39 million, or 54% of the cost.  The governments will provide UA 7.82 million or 11% while the NGOs will contribute UA 11.49 million or 15% of the costs. The ADF is the second largest contributor after Merck & Co. Inc., which made a first monetary contribution of US$ 25 million to the program.

* 1 UA = US$ 1.63362 as at 15/07/2008

CONTACT: Felix Njoku – Tel.: +216 71 10 26 12 – E-mail: f.njokul@afdb.org