An official of Nigeria’s health ministry, Michael Igbe has said about 50 million Nigerians are at risk of getting infected with onchocerciasis, also called River Blindness.

Mr. Igbe who is the programme manager of the National Onchocerciasis Elimination Programme said this in Ibadan during a media parley organised by the Child Rights Information Bureau of the federal ministry of Information and Culture, in collaboration UNICEF.

Speaking at the event, Mr. Igbe said “At inception, Nigeria had interventions covering 32 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Now, 27 states and the FCT, with about 50 million persons in Nigeria are at risk of onchocerciasis.”

The official explained that the disease was caused by the nematode Onchocerca volvulus, which is the second leading cause of preventable blindness.

Mr. Igbe stated that River Blindness is transmitted by the bite of an infected black fly: Simulium Damnosum and other species, breeding in fast-flowing streams and rivers.

He noted that “people become blind early in life as from 20-30 years.”

The major challenge faced in addressing the disease was insecurity in some local government areas, said Mr. Igbe.

Others, he said, were poor funding by the government and inadequate logistics for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) programme.

He noted that NTDs are viral, parasitic and bacterial diseases that mainly affect the world’s poorest people.