African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC)

APOC wins António Champalimaud Vision Award 2011

The Award was given by the Portuguese President of the Republic, Anibal Cavaco Silva, and by Mrs. Leonor Beleza, the Champalimaud Foundation President
WHO/APOC
The Award was given by the Portuguese President of the Republic, Anibal Cavaco Silva, and by Mrs. Leonor Beleza, the Champalimaud Foundation President
  • The biggest global award for outstanding contributions to the prevention of visual impairment and blindness totalling 1 million Euros goes to APOC
  • APOC – African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control – recognized for its contribution to the prevention and fight against river blindness in 19 countries
  • 153 000 communities involved in local interventions

Lisbon, 9th September 2011 - The António Champalimaud Vision Award 2011 was given to the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC). This award, amounting to 1 million Euros was given in recognition of APOC’s outstanding contribution to the prevention, control and fight against onchocerciasis or River blindness, a disease which has already infected over 18 million people.

Mrs. Leonor Beleza, the Champalimaud Foundation President, Dr Uche Amazigo (retired Director of APOC) and Dr Paul-Samson Lusamba-Dikassa, Director of APOC
WHO/APOC
Mrs. Leonor Beleza, the Champalimaud Foundation President, Dr Uche Amazigo (retired Director of APOC) and Dr Paul-Samson Lusamba-Dikassa, Director of APOC

This parasitic disease, found predominantly near rivers and streams, is transmitted to humans by the bite of the infected blackfly. This parasite lives in the human body producing millions of tiny larvae. These larvae migrate through the skin causing disfiguring and debilitating lesions and skin rashes. The disease is one of the main causes of avoidable blindness in sub-Saharan Africa.

For the past fifteen years, APOC has been coordinating over a hundred projects in onchocerciasis-endemic countries to control this disease. In 2010 APOC treated over 73 million people with the drug, ivermectin, thus protecting more than 120 million people at risk of contracting river blindness. APOC established a strategy of community directed treatment with ivermectin, which directly involves affected communities in administering the drug, bringing health and hope to the poorest of the poor, especially those living in the remotest and underserved regions of Africa.

ABOUT APOC - APOC is a global unique public-private partnership launched in December 1995 with the goal of eliminating onchocerciasis as a disease of public health and socio-economic importance throughout Africa. Community-Directed Treatment with Ivermectin (CDTI), the main strategy used by APOC, relies on the active participation of the beneficiaries and promotes community ownership and empowerment of communities. CDTI is now increasingly being used by communities to bring other health interventions to the people who need them most.

The true strength of the APOC programme is its unique partnership that comprises 20 donor countries and organizations, 15 Non Governmental Development Organizations, 19 participating African countries, the pharmaceutical company, Merck & Co. Inc. that donates ivermectin/mectizan to all who need it for as long as needed, research organizations and institutions, and 153,000 endemic communities.

The award ceremony
WHO/APOC
The award ceremony

About the António Champalimaud Vision Award - The António Champalimaud Vision Award was created in 2006 by the Lisbon based Champalimaud Foundation and is supported by the World Health Organisation’s “Vision 2020: The Right to Sight”. Every odd year, the award recognizes the work carried out by organizations working locally in the prevention of and the fight against blindness and other eye disorders, mainly in developing countries.

Every even year, the award is given to major scientific breakthrough in eye research. In 2007, the Vision Award was given to the Aravind Eye Care System from India and in 2008 it was jointly given to King-Wai Yau and Jeremy Nathans, from Johns Hopkins University. In 2009 it was awarded to Helen Keller International and in 2010, to Anthony Movshon (New York University) and William T. Newsome (Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Stanford University). For 2011, organisations from all continents entered. The jury is formed by internationally renowned scientists and public figures who support causes related to the fight against problems experienced by developing countries. Jury members: Alfred Sommer, Paul Sieving, Jacques Delors, Amartya Sen, Carla Shatz, Joshua Sanes, Mark Bear, Gullapalli Rao, José Cunha-Vaz, António Guterres and Susumu Tonegawa.

About the Champalimaud Foundation The Champalimaud Foundation (www.fchampalimaud.org )is a private organization dedicated to making advances in biomedical science. With an endowment of 500,000,000 Euros, the Foundation’s work is focused on three core areas – neuroscience research, cancer research, and an outreach programme to support the fight against blindness. Based in Lisbon, Portugal, the Foundation opened last year the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, a cutting-edge research facility.

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