Socio-Economic Impact Of Onchocerciasis With Particular Reference To Females And Children: A Review
The socio-economic impact of onchocerciasis (river blindness) on humans is reviewed with special reference to females and children. The results of many studies reveal that onchocerciasis is usuallya serious threat to public health and an impediment to socio-economic development in areas wth high intensity and high endemicity of the dsease. In such places, blindness and serious visual impairment are common,and mortality among the blind may be four times as high as among non-blind persons of the same age in the same community. As a result of debilitation and blindness, theinfected person is unable to maintain for long any type of productive activity Inhabitants o fertileriver valleys move to the less fertie upland country. Many young men migrate to urban areas, reducing the productivity of the community and disrupting family life. Employees cassified as having a severe Onchocercal Skin Disease (OSD) earned 15 % less in daily wages than those not infected. People with Onchocercal Skin Disease are stigmatized in their communities. OSD limits the range of social involvement and can affect sexual life of affected individuals. With reference towomen and children, young females with OSD suffer stigmatization more than young men. This affects their age of marriage and the kind of partners they marry, limiting them to already marriedmen, divorced men, eldery men, childless men, etc. Severe itching that often accompanies OSD may reduce the period lactating mothers breastfeed their babies. Children, particularly females, from households headed by individuals with onchocerciasis, especially blindness and OSD are moreat risk of being school dropouts. Academic performance of school children with visual impairment is adversely affected. To reduce these effects, there is need for intense public enlighenment to augment the efforts o World Health Organization (WHO) in combating the disease using mass treatment wth ivermectin (Mectizan).
Keywords: Onchocerciasis, Onchocercal skin disease, Stigmatization, Visual impairment
Animal Research International Vol. 3 (2) 2006 pp. 494-504