Sightsavers' Jubilee Appeal

British Consul General, New York hosts breakfast reception to celebrate the launch of Sightsavers Jubilee Appeal

On Friday 8 June, Mr Danny Lopez and his team at the British Consulate-General, New York, hosted a breakfast reception to celebrate the launch of Sightsavers’ Jubilee Appeal to eliminate river blindness. The breakfast reception was attended by over 50 people, and it was great to have the opportunity to meet some of our US supporters.

Thanks to our speakers

Mr Lopez introduced the reception and also conveyed a message from HRH Elizabeth II. Her Majesty graciously wished us every success with this project. We are delighted to again receive her best wishes, through correspondence with her office, for the current Diamond Jubilee River Blindness Appeal

We were very pleased to also welcome Mr Julio Rojas, Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered, Americas and Ms Brenda Colatrella, Executive Director of the Office of Corporate Responsibility at Merck & Co. Inc., who spoke about their partnerships with Sightsavers to support the prevention of avoidable blindness. Sightsavers has enjoyed partnerships with both Merck & Co. Inc. and Standard Chartered which now span several years. Lord Nigel Crisp, Chairman of Sightsavers, delivered the keynote address, providing an overview of Sightsavers’ involvement in river blindness prevention and outlining Sightsavers’ plans to eliminate the disease in the countries where we work.

Sightsavers’ involvement in river blindness prevention

With 120 million people at risk of river blindness and 37 million people already infected, it’s a major cause of preventable blindness in Africa. Spread by the bite of the black fly that breeds by fast-flowing rivers, research now suggests that it’s possible to eliminate the disease through drug distribution programs like the ones we support. This means people can live by the river free from the threat of losing their sight.

Sightsavers has been involved in the fight against river blindness for over 60 years. Our founder, Sir John Wilson, launched the first investigation into the condition in the 1950s, carrying out a major research project which identified the scale of the problem. Since that time, we have been involved in both aerial spraying of endemic areas and the distribution of Mectizan ® to prevent river blindness.

Sightsavers has now distributed over 170 million Mectizan® tablets to people at risk in Africa. In some areas, we are not just controlling river blindness, we are achieving elimination, ensuring that children no longer have to care for relatives blinded by the disease, that parents have to stop work, or that the cycle of poverty is exacerbated by this avoidable blindness.

Our elimination strategy

There is still much to be done, however, as 120 million people around the world live at risk of river blindness every day. Sightsavers currently supports river blindness control programmes in 14 African countries, including Nigeria, Cameroon, Liberia, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Mali, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone Burkina Faso and Guinea. Our Diamond Jubilee Appeal outlines an ambitious strategy to eliminate the disease in the countries where we work by 2021.

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