Compassion, Commitment, and Innovation
A Symposium on Onchocerciasis Control in Africa
April 28, 2021
11:00 a.m. - 12:45 p.m. EDT
Location: Online Zoom Webinar
Bruce Benton’s book, Riverblindness in Africa: Taming the Lion’s Stare (2020), documents the origins, stories, successes, and challenges of controlling, and eventually eliminating, onchocerciasis, a widespread and debilitating disease in Africa. The book underscores that this was a deeply human endeavor, built on a network of personal relationships and commitment to a common goal that forged an extraordinary partnership. The book provides a glimpse into the central role of compassion – the desire to alleviate suffering – which drove key decisions. Alongside technical, logistical, and financial challenges, the book explores some of the programs’ ethical challenges which remain obstacles to onchocerciasis elimination (e.g., Mectizan-associated encephalopathy in persons with loiasis infection).
This event probed dimensions of the human side of the onchocerciasis-control story, including the role of compassion and the importance of trust. It examined how compassion, commitment, and innovation, which have been central to the long-term success of onchocerciasis control, can lead to completion of that effort in Africa. To date the disease has been eliminated as a public-health problem everywhere with the exception of Central Africa, where challenges remain to achieve lasting control. The symposium explored how commitment and innovations might halt transmission in the Central African subregion and thereby achieve elimination of onchocerciasis throughout Africa.
This event was co-sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Department of International Health at the School of Nursing and Health Studies, and the Global Health Initiative at Georgetown University with the Focus Area for Compassion and Ethics at the Task Force for Global Health.
This event was recorded and a captioned video will be posted to this page soon.
Note for event participants: Purchase Riverblindness in Africa: Taming the Lion’s Stare at a 30% discount with the code HTWN through John Hopkins University Press.
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Statue of a young boy leading an older man with onchocerciasis.