Community Volunteers Key to River Blindness Strategy

Dr. Emmanuel Miri, Country Representative, The Carter Center/Nigeria

Gabriel Ani is a farmer and schoolteacher in the Ndiulo Enugu-Nato village in Enugu State, Nigeria, who loves his community and is loved back. Gabriel is a community volunteer drug distributor — the hands, feet, and heart of our River Blindness Elimination Program. For nine years, he has served more than 1,000 people in 129 households, carefully measuring each person to determine the proper dosage of medicine and recording it in a ledger.

In 2016, the Enugu State Ministry of Health named Gabriel the best distributor in the state, citing “his dedication, his accuracy of recordkeeping, his excellent teaching ability, his personal interest in his clients, and his general regard for humanity.”

When some Carter Center staffers visited Gabriel’s village last fall, the people broke out in song to celebrate his peerless service to the community. He has become the village’s go-to guy for solving all kinds of problems, and the people adore him. This is typical, as distributors in other villages also have been rewarded with such tokens as songs and meals.

Gabriel trains other distributors, spreading his excellence and experience beyond his own village. Among his protégés is a 20-year-old woman, Blessing Confidence Ude. “He inspires me,” she tells people. Gabriel’s 14-year-old son, Elijah, says he wants to be just like his father and help people when he grows up.

Communities in the nine states in Nigeria where The Carter Center is working to eliminate river blindness want to end the unnecessary suffering of their people, and heartily praise volunteers like Gabriel and Blessing.

With support from 100&Change, we expect tens of thousands of proud and eager Nigerians like Gabriel and Blessing to take up the fight to eliminate river blindness nationwide.

This post was first published on the MacArthur Foundation website.

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