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Forced to send his grandson into danger

A stream is teeming with biting black flies, in remote Africa. These flies carry the parasites that cause one of the world’s most horrible diseases, River Blindness.

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Every day, Dibelayi’s blind grandfather Fortunat faces a heartbreaking dilemma. The family needs water to survive, but this stream is their only water source.

Fortunat would go to the stream to fetch water himself, but he cannot find his way. River Blindness has already stolen his sight. He is forced to send his grandson Dibelayi, knowing that any day the young boy could be infected with the same parasites that blinded Fortunat.

Fortunat has never seen his grandson. He became blind before Dibelayi was born. That was when Fortunat was a strong woodsman, cutting trees, making boards and selling wood to support his family. When flies bit him while he worked, he considered them no more than a nuisance.

“Can you help him? My grandson is a person created by God. I hope he will never become blind like me.” – Fortunat

Fortunat did not know that the flies were implanting tiny worms under his skin. “Lumps grew on my body,” he remembers. Inside these lumps, the parasites were breeding in their millions. They released toxins that caused unbearable irritation. “My skin was itching horribly. I scratched myself constantly. The itching never stopped!”

People like Fortunat are so desperate for relief, they dig at their own skin, trying to cut out the worms. This causes mottled scarring known throughout Africa’s river valleys as “leopard skin.”

What the parasites did next is why this dreadful disease is called River Blindness. “I had parasites in my eyes. My eyes died. Everything is black.”

Fortunat is terrified that the same suffering and blindness could happen to his grandson, Dibelayi. So he asks, “can you help him? My grandson is a person created by God. I hope he will never become blind like me.”

CBM Australia

Fortunat fears River Blindness might also infect his grandson. CBM Australia

Through CBM, Australians today have a unique opportunity to protect children like Dibelayi from River Blindness, with a medication called Ivermectin. Two or three pills per year is all it takes to keep a child safe. The manufacturer, Merck, has donated large quantities of Ivermectin, and all that is needed now are the funds to get the pills into the hands of those who need them.

This gives Australians the opportunity to have the value of their donation multiplied seven times; so that every $10 donated becomes $70 worth of life-changing, parasite-killing protection.

CBM was founded more than 100 years ago to follow the example of Jesus in bringing hope and healing to those living with disabilities in extreme poverty. Long known as Christian Blind Mission, CBM now works in many areas of disability and inclusion. Treating and preventing the injustice of suffering like River Blindness still remains at the heart of its work, though. Every year CBM supporters, including thousands of Australians, protect more than 15 million people from River Blindness. If untreated, River Blindness causes unbearable irritation and then irreversible blindness.

Visit CBM to find out more about how you can help save Africa’s children like Dibelayi from a disease that caused his grandfather so much suffering, poverty and irreversible blindness.

Confronting Facts about River Blindness:

  • A total of 18 million people are infected with River Blindness
  • 99 per cent of these people are in Africa
  • There are 120 million people worldwide who are at risk of River Blindness
  • River Blindness parasitic worms live up to 14 years in the body, and those infected need ongoing medication to stop the worms breeding

Heather Potter

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